Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Judith and Miriam Sobre: A legacy in academia

Judith and Miriam Sobre: A legacy in academia

Judith and Miriam Sobre, a mother and daughter duo, share a legacy at UTSA as educators.

OCTOBER 14, 2022 — UTSA is home to many inspiring legacy stories. It is not unheard of for a student to graduate with their parent at the same Commencement ceremony or even for a student and their grandparent to achieve their degrees at the same time.

The UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts is home to another incredible legacy story. Mother and daughter Judith and Miriam Sobre hold an exceptional distinction as two generations of UTSA educators.

Judith (Judy) Sobre’s storied academic career began after she graduated with her bachelor of arts from New York University in 1962 and her master of arts from Harvard University. Her focus in medieval Spanish paintings and Jewish art took her across the United States to teach at the University of Oregon while she finished up her doctorate degree at Harvard.

Well equipped with a robust education, Judy was the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship that allowed her to spend years in Barcelona to enhance her expertise.

In 1974, by recommendation from a friend, Judy applied at UTSA and was hired to develop an arts curriculum at a time where there was not an arts building at the UTSA Main Campus and no formal art department had yet been formed.

From the Koger Center, a San Antonio building still standing today near Babcock and Loop 410, Judy taught art classes among the traffic of attorneys and insurance salesman that occupied the same building. Judy’s first class had only two enrolled students, but it was part of the humble beginnings of a developing arts program at UTSA.

“When I arrived in August of 1974, there was no base to start from; there was no art history program at UTSA. We had to create that curriculum ourselves,” Judy said, chuckling. “The same week they hired me, we were ordering slides from catalogs and piecing together what would eventually come together as the initial footwork for the future art history program at UTSA.”

Judy successfully achieved tenure at UTSA into her second year. Following her tenure bid, she learned she was pregnant with Miriam. Through the backing of her then department chair, a colleague who was greatly concerned about Judy’s health and ability to return to work after delivering Miriam, Judy was able to receive the first ever instance of paid maternity leave at UTSA.

Even with the leave, Judy was back to teaching within six weeks and raising Miriam by herself while juggling a full roster of classes. She was able to leverage her tireless work effort in the name of equity later. She learned she was among the lowest-paid full professors on campus, and she was able to successfully advocate for a raise.

“After years of hard work, I was surprised to find out that I was the second lowest-paid full professor at UTSA. I was thankful to have the courage to march into my department chair’s office and fight for myself. I was able to acquire a 20% salary raise,” Judy proudly stated.

Miriam was raised as a child of UTSA, learning and growing in the halls and buildings on campus. As she got older, academia was the last thing on her mind.

By the time she grew to college age, however, her passion for higher education was evident. Miriam graduated with a bachelor of arts from the University of Puget Sound, a master of arts from the University of Texas at Austin and a doctorate degree from Arizona State University. Before she knew it, she was exploring professional options in academia.

“I think it’s just in the blood. The first day I went into the classroom, I was petrified and shaking. I was late. I remember walking into the room and said something that was purposefully funny. All my students laughed and for the right reasons too,” Miriam explained with relief. “The fear just fell away and the feeling was almost indescribable how amazing it felt to engage with my students.”

After five years of teaching in Carbondale, Illinois, and not finding the right fit in a new position at Texas State University, Miriam explored the option of moving to San Antonio. She subsequently acquired a job at UTSA.

Miriam obtained a faculty position with the Department of Communication and found herself in a very similar situation to Judy. She was pregnant and juggling her course commitments as a Fixed Term Track (FTT) faculty member while also engaging in research and writing books in her field.

She later gave birth to her daughter, Sydney, and was hired on as a full-time FTT faculty member. She was four years into her program when she decided it was time to pursue the tenure track.

Miriam was able to wrangle fierce advocacy for her current position, with even her students rallying in favor of her promotion. After some hard work and passionate advocacy, she was able to secure her place as a full-time professor at UTSA.

“I have such a great respect for my mom who raised me during the ’70s and ’80s during a time that was rough to be a single mom. In growing up, seeing her advocate for herself with such courage, gave me the strength and vision to be able to advocate for myself.” Miriam shared with gratitude. “I am extraordinarily proud that I have been able to stay in academia doing a job that I love at a university I love with students that I love — all of which would not have been possible if my mom was not who she was when she raised me.”

Today, with Judy retired from UTSA and Miriam continuing her career as an assistant professor in the Department of Communication, Judy and Miriam make time for one another by supporting each other’s projects. Miriam is currently collaborating with Judy on multiple academic articles that focus on Miriam’s passion of Jewish identity, racial equity and justice.

When asked if Judy had any advice for Miriam as she continues her career in academia, she expressed a confidence in the path that Miriam has already carved for herself.


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⇒ Learn more about the UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts.

“My advice to Miriam is to carry on. I tried my darndest to raise her well,” she said. “I think I brought her up right, and I am very flattered and happy that academia has become a family thing. Miriam, keep your free-thinking ways. It is important that we serve as beacons for our students.”

When asked if Sydney would be carrying on the tradition of academia as she grows up and spends time on the UTSA campus, Miriam smiled and explained, “Oh, I don’t know. The pathway is very much open to her as she grows up, and I want her to choose what makes her happy. If she chooses to become a teacher, then we will be here to support her every step of the way.”

Nick Ward



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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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UTSA Today is produced by University Communications and Marketing, the official news source of The University of Texas at San Antonio. Send your feedback to news@utsa.edu. Keep up-to-date on UTSA news by visiting UTSA Today. Connect with UTSA online at Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Instagram.


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