By Destiny Torres, Senior Editor
Together, they contributed more than 125 years of collective service to this university, teaching in humanities and sciences departments or working to make sure that all faculty were able to utilize technology. But their impact was felt on far more than just the countless students they worked with, and their legacies remain entwined in the continued growth of the Africana Studies and Chicano/a departments, as well as contemporary Latinx writers, and the university as a whole.
And over the winter break, all five of these long-time Toros, scholars and technical wizards whose cumulative careers stretched nearly the entire 55-year history of this campus and spanned at least three continents, passed. But based on the outpouring of remembrances from colleagues, they leave more than memories behind. For the work they did, and the personal connections they made, live in the minds of those they taught and worked with, and in the pulse of this university’s heart.
Following are short bios of each of the five, followed by remembrances from colleagues.
Dr. Juana Arancibia
Taught in Modern Languages Department (formerly Foreign Languages Department), 1979-2010
Founder, Instituto Literario y Cultural Hispánico (ILCH), or the Hispanic Literary and Cultural Institute.
Well-loved by the community, Dr. Arancibia was an active participant in students’ lives as a professor and as a leader in organizing events
Born in Jujuy, Argentina, Dr. Arancibia is described as being a dedicated student growing up. At the University of Buenos Aires, she studied economic sciences. Upon arriving in the United States, she earned her doctorate and began teaching at CSUDH right away.
On Oct. 15, 1979, she founded the Instituto Literario y Cultural Hispánico (ILCH), or the Hispanic Literary and Cultural Institute. She organized symposiums throughout America and Europe. This is also around the time when she birthed the Alba de América, an academic literary journal.
She was the author of many books including “Porque Es De Piedra El Corazón De Todo: Because the Heart of Everything is Made of Stone,” “Martinez Estrada, Francotirador: Martinez Estrada, the Sniper,” and “Diario de Tina, La Gata Nina: Diary of Tina: the Girl Cat.”
“She was internationally known as founder of Alba de América, a prestigious literary journal. She organized forty-two International Symposia of Literature, in the United States, Latin America, and Spain, nine of which took place at Dominguez Hills, which brought international recognition to the MLG and our university. May she rest in peace.”
-Dr. Ivonne Heinze Balcazar Chair ,Department of Modern Languages
“Juana was a passionate and incredibly dedicated feminist. Her commitment to promote Latin American’s female authors was incommensurable and she was extremely well-known in our profession. In 2013, thanks to her, Elena Poniatowska, probably the greatest Mexican writer alive today came, for free, to Dominguez Hills. The Loker Union ballroom was packed and filled with reporters.
“When I told the news to Elena Poniatowska, she replied. “I deeply lament Juana’s loss. She was a dear friend. Her journal was exemplary. She brought together writers from Latin America. I have met very few people with her ability to give. Without her it is not worth going to any congres.”
“Juana Arancibia will be deeply missed. Descanse en paz.”
–Dr. Benito Gómez Madrid Department of Modern Languages
William Peter Blankenship
Instructor in the Computer Science Department for more than 30 years.
The old saying is those who can’t do teach; that is rarely true but for absolute proof, look no further than Peter Blankenship (William was his dad). Though he taught a variety of classes in computer science since first hired at CSUDH in 1989, it was his his hands-on experience with TRW/Northrup that allowed him to apply what he learned as an undergraduate at USC.
And what he learned working on computers helped save lives. Blankenship helped develop the software for FBCB2, the Linux-based computer platform designed to give U.S. military commanders real-time situational battlefield awareness, which can help reduce the so-called “fog of war” and friendly fire.
For his efforts, Blankenship was part of the team that won the 2003 Federal Computer Week Monticello Award, given in recognition of an information system that has a direct, meaningful impact on human lives.
Blankenship graduated with a bachelor’s from USC in 1983 and continued to work for TRW/Northrup since he was hired in 1985.
He was still working for Northrup, and planning on teaching this semester when he suffered a brain hemorrhage on Jan. 18. He fell into a coma and five days later died.
Blankenship was remembered by Computer Science chair Mohsen Beheshti as one of the department’s favorite instructors among students.
“Peter was always smiling and ready and able to teach a wide range of courses, “Beheshti wrote on the DH email server list. “He was a great educator and a great sponsor to our program and our students.”
Because his death was so sudden, friends of he and his wife have established an online fundraiser. Those interested in offering financial or emotional support can visit here for the information.
He is survived by his wife, Natalie, his mother, Janice and a brother and sister, Tracy and David.
Dr. Munashe Furusa
Taught in Africana Studies Department, 2000-2014
Africana Studies chair, Academic Senate chair, Dean of the College of Arts & Humanities.
Dr. Furusa made an enormous impact on this campus in his 14 years–and that impact was felt immediately. Initially he came as a visiting professor, recruited by Dr. William Little, the founding chair of Africana Studies.
But students took to the Zimbabwe-born Furusa and started a petition to get him employed here. It worked. In 2006, he was granted tenure and stepped up to chair Africana Studies until 2010.
His teaching specialities were Africana culture, identity and literature, but his work wasn’t limited to the classroom. He was chair of the Academic Senate along with numerous other campus committees, Dean of the College of the Arts & Humanities, executive director of the California African American Political and Economic Institute, was on the board for the National Council for Black Studies and worked closely with both African Americans and African elected officials as well as ambassadors, consul generals, Black churches, non-profit organizations and chambers of commerce to help develop struggling communities in Africa and the U.S.
His dedication to campus service, teaching excellence and prolific scholarly production earned him numerous campus awards including the university’s Excellence in Service Award in 2008, the 2004 Lyle E. Gibson Dominguez Hills Distinguished Teacher Award, the Frederick Douglass Award for Outstanding Leadership and Service and the 2002 and 2000 Cheikh Anta Diop Award.
Furusa, a first-generation college student, received his doctorate in African literature and critical theory, and his master’s and bachelor’s in English from the University of Zimbabwe.
He returned to his native Zimbabwe in 2014 in order to become the fourth vice chancellor of Africa University. By all accounts, he fit right in, helping to adapt the university’s seven teaching units into three colleges, which helped attract more research grants.
Along with being a beloved teacher and administrator, Dr. Furusa was a dedicated scholar. In a Jan. 13 email announcement to faculty and administration on the DH email list, Dr. Donna Nicol, the current chair of Africana Studies, wrote that Dr. Furusa’s examination of African literature and the study of African people across the world “emphasized the linkages between the African American experience and the social and political condition on the African continent.”
His teaching, leadership and scholarship were all mentioned in the days following the initial post from Dr. Nicol about his death, but it was the personal connection that most of his colleagues chose to remember….
“He corrected you with a smile and love, but you still sat up and flew right.”
—Akua Tiearea “T.J.” Robinson, alumni
(BA, Africana Studies, 2010, MA, IDS: Africana Psychology, 2014)
“Dr. Furusa was a man among men. A leader among leaders. He taught us that our purpose as Africana scholars and writers was to engage in the process of connecting the African diaspora to Africa.”
—Jonathan Henderson, alumni
(BA Sociology, minor in Africana Studies, 2014, MA, Sociology, 2016
“He was a coach, mentor, teacher, scholar, astute administrator who was very passionate and steeped in the culture and history of Africa and the African Diaspora.”
–Dr. Salim Faraji, Professor of Africana Studies
“He always had a smile, wore his African dashiki with glowing pride, and his laughter was contagious. He made you feel as a long time friend who was always excited to see you to spend some quality time. He always reminded me that laughter is the best medicine when things on campus seemed so gloomy and without hope. We laughed a lot and enjoyed poking fun at the administration.”
–Dr. José R. López Morín, Professor, Chicana/o Studies Department
“Conversations with Munashe were always illuminating as his knowledge was wide, his perspective encompassing, his deep listening palpable, his kindness radiant, and his compassion enveloping. I once asked Munashe about the meaning and derivation of his name as Menashe has an interesting story in Genesis. I was not surprised when he related that Munashe is a Zimbabwe name meaning “with God”.
–Gilah Hirsch. Professor, Art Department
“It is without a doubt that his talent, knowledge, compassion, humbleness, and his contagious smile and laugh, left a footprint of what a great leader represents, an amazing human being, a good person, and a great friend. We can all learn a lot about leadership and humanity by following Munashe’s example. I will miss him dearly but heaven is now one star brighter.”
Academic Personnel Coordinator,
Faculty Affairs and Development
I remember standing in the sculpture garden on a beautiful spring day, commiserating with Munashe about my frustrations with a certain university committee that we both served on. Munashe emphatically declared, “This is our university! If we don’t like how it operates, we need to work to change it.” He was right, of course. He was inspiring – a natural leader. He always saw the university as “ours” – belonging to the whole community of faculty, students, staff, and administrators- as a kind of family that was always worth fighting for and always capable of being improved. Munashe was an exceptional friend, mentor, and colleague. He was an exceptional boss. He was a bright and buoyant soul whose laugh and smile never failed to uplift my own spirit. And he had the heart of a lion.
–Dr. Sheela L. Pawar
Chair, Philosophy Department
Dr. Raúl Vega Romero
Worked in the modern languages department early 1970s – 2020
When students eventually return to campus, the hallways of LaCorte Hall will be missing something: the voice and spirit of Dr. Raúl Vegas Romero.
Romero began teaching at CSUDH in the early 1970s. In 1975, he was part of the creation of a Chicano art exhibition. He became the Coordinator of the Mexican American Studies Program in the early 1980s. In 1997, he was awarded the Lyle E. Gibson Dominguez Hills Distinguished Teacher Award.
He received his bachelor’s degree in1972 from Loyola Marymount, his master’s degree from Stanford in 1973 and his doctorate degree from the University of Southern California in Hispanic languages and literature. Upon graduating, Romero brought his passion for literature and the arts to CSUDH, teaching about the Spanish language and its cultures.
Those who worked with Romero remember him as being a passionate instructor who was always respectful and helpful to everyone.
“He was a kind, caring person, with a beautiful soul, and he was a true friend. He constantly showed great concern for his students, his colleagues, the campus community, his family and his friends. He provided me with encouragement regarding my career on many occasions as well as advice regarding various matters.
—Dr. Michael Galant, Professor of Modern Languages
“I will remember fondly our chats in our offices. He loved to talk about his travels, food, history, his passion for teaching teachers, and above all, his beloved Tucson. He was a wonderful conversationalist and a warm and caring person who made you feel like what you said was important and interesting. Descansa en paz, Raúl.”
—Dr. Benito Gómez Madrid, Professor of Modern Languages
I’ll never hear Danzón No. 2 by Arturo Márquez without thinking of him. Raúl was completely devoted to his students, always thinking about how best to serve them. He was a good friend. I will miss him dearly.
–Dr. Rod Hernandez, English
Throughout the last decade I had countless late evening conversations with Raúl in the halls of LaCorte Hall when we would be some of the last people to leave the building at night. We would talk for hours about linguistics, language acquisition, and pedagogy. It was ALWAYS great to talk with him because he was so passionate about teaching and LOVED his students!
—Miguel Gutiérrez, Professor of Chicano/a Studies
Worked in Information Technology for more than 17 years, retired Aug. 1, 2017.
“(Roper) Worked in the Instructional Media Services (IMS) area as an equipment specialist and supported the Enhanced Technology Smart classrooms in the evenings., said Chris Manriquez, vice president of information technology. ” Dennis worked hard and regularly contributed to discussions about what could be improved. He was one of the staff members who early on advocated for the team and his colleagues. He is well remembered by his colleagues and will be greatly missed.”
Jacqueline Kuenz, executive assistant to the vice president of I. T., submitted this compilation of remembrances from Roper’s colleagues.
“It was because of Dennis and his persistence to management at the time that the classroom support positions were created. He mentored and trained his colleagues on how to image computers, map network drives and how to use a remote desktop! Dennis was a very technical and competent staff member who kept the classes up and running during the evenings and weekends.”
That is about the most the Bulletin could find in regard to Mr. Roper, who like so many of the indispensable staff and employees at this university who do so much of the work that allows it to function on a daily basis, rarely walked near the spotlight.
But we do know he was a computer guy. So here are some quotes from some other computer guys that Mr. Roper might have approved of.
“It’s not a faith in technology. It’s faith in people.
“The advance of technology is based on making it fit in so that you don’t really even notice it, so it’s part of everyday life.”
“Technology is best when it brings people together.”
—Matt Mullenweg, Social Media Entrepreneur
“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again. “