University holds fundraiser for Jimenez award
October 13, 2016
Francisco Jiménez’s continued efforts to break down barriers for first-generation Latinx students have culminated in another triumphant success.
In a Grand Reunion reception honoring the celebrated author and recently retired Santa Clara professor on Oct. 7, the Francisco and Laura Jiménez Scholarship became fully endowed.
The journey to this achievement began in 2014, when Jiménez announced his retirement from teaching. Santa Clara consequently decided to form a scholarship in his name, inspired by the life of the author.
Born in Western Mexico, Jiménez emigrated to the United States as a young child.
His family, migrant farm workers who frequently had to move with the agricultural seasons in order to find work, often lived in extreme poverty. And on top of that, Jiménez, who knew very little English, struggled to keep up in school.
Eventually, with hard work and good fortune, Jiménez ended up at Santa Clara, where he earned his degree in Spanish and History and met his wife Laura. After receiving his doctorate from Columbia University, he returned in 1973 back to the Bay Area and to Santa Clara to be a Spanish professor.
Then, in 1997, Jiménez published his first autobiographical book, “The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child.” He has since published three additional books tracing his life from migrant child to university professor and won numerous literary awards, including the Américas Award for Children and Young Adult Literature and the Boston GlobeHorn Book Award.
As a result of his success story, Jiménez has become a source for inspiration for much of the Latinx community. His stories reach people of all ages, as evidenced by the gathering at the Grand Reunion reception. A long line of young children, college students and older adults wrapped around the event—all eagerly waiting to meet the author.
Held on the lawn across the Mission Church, the lively reception, with colorful papel picado and a brassy mariachi band, celebrated Latinx culture, in addition to honoring Jiménez.
And later on in the night, several students and classmates of Jiménez spoke on the author and his legacy. For instance, one of Jiménez’s former classmates, Patrick Hall, joked that although he tried to “corrupt Jiménez,” he ultimately failed because of Jimenez’s incredible work ethic. As Hall said, “The world steps aside for a man who knows where he’s going.”
The most poignant speech of the night came from the director of the Multicultural Center, senior Isaac Nieblas. He credited Jiménez for empowering both him and his mother.
“That night when (my mother) read your story to me, that one night, we cried, we laughed, we partook in your life, Professor. You engulfed mine,” Nieblas said.
He also talked about being a student in Jiménez’s final class, in which the professor taught his own books. As Jiménez unraveled his own stories for the class, the students witnessed first-hand the power of the author.
“One moment that I will always hold in my heart—that is seared in my memory—was when emotions overcame you as you taught your book,” Nieblas said. “A hush covered the room as your eyes watered… And in a moment of pure emotion you kicked the table. We sat in silence because you gave it your all. You put yourself in the most vulnerable state in order to lead us on the right path.”
Much of the reception was ultimately devoted to fundraising for the scholarship. Before the Grand Reunion event, the Francisco and Laura Jiménez Scholarship only had $53,000 to draw from for students— and while that seems like a lot of money, it’s not enough to provide for a substantial amount of students.
Yet, by the end of the night, with proceeds from sales of Jiménez’s books, as well as a public and silent auction, the scholarship was fully endowed, making it a permanent fixture of the university. The award will be granted to first-generation Latinx students in need of further financial assistance—which hit close to home for Jiménez. As the author explained, it was the financial assistance that he received when he applied to Santa Clara over 50 years ago that allowed for his education to even happen.
Laura Jiménez, the author’s wife, perhaps best explained the importance of the scholarship and of educating young Latinx students, stating, “This is a time where the past, present and future intersect.”
In a time of strife for the Latinx community, this scholarship will prove to be a source of inspiration for many years to come.
Contact Madeline White at email@example.com or call (408) 554- 4852.