Thursday, September 21, 2023

In Memoriam: UTSA remembers historian and long-time faculty member Felix Almaráz, Jr.

In Memoriam: UTSA remembers historian and long-time faculty member Felix Almaráz, Jr.

MAY 26, 2023 — The UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA) and the college’s Department of History are remembering Felix Almaráz, Jr., a long-time UTSA instructor who recently passed away. Almaráz began his academic career at UTSA as an assistant professor in 1973, where he remained until his retirement as a full professor of instruction in 2011.

Almaráz was born on San Antonio’s South Side in 1933. After serving with the United States Army, his love of history compelled him to attend St. Mary's University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts. He then went on to earn his Ph.D. in history from the University of New Mexico.

An outstanding teacher, Almaráz was also a prolific scholar. He wrote five books and over 50 scholarly articles. His best-known books include “Tragic Cavalier: Governor Manuel Salcedo of Texas, 1808-1813” and “Knight Without Armor: Carlos E. Castañeda, A Biography of a Mexican-American Historian, 1896-1958.” His teaching, publications and congenial relationships with fellow scholars led to his recognition by many organizations. He was president of the Texas Catholic Historical Society (1981-1984), president of the Texas State Historical Association (1996-1997) and a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Argentina.

“Almaráz was a perennial student favorite at UTSA. Students respected and adored him for his deep knowledge of the subject matter at hand and his love of teaching.”

“Professor Almaráz was a pioneering scholar of the American Southwest. This is a region that had been sorely neglected by the historical profession until more recent years,” said UTSA Department of History Professor Emeritus John Reynolds on Almaráz’s significant contributions to the field of Southwest history. “His many publications focusing on Spanish Texas helped draw scholarly attention to the area and to UTSA. He entered the profession in the 1970s when Hispanic historians were rare.”

In 1973, Almaráz accepted an appointment to the Bexar County Historical Commission, where he would serve on and off for nearly 50 years. He was responsible for many historical markers across Bexar County and served as the first chairman of the Historical Commission. He developed a successful three-year Tricentennial Symposium, “Spain’s Encounter with the New World” and helped with the World Heritage nomination for the San Antonio Missions. For his efforts, the County awarded him with multiple Hidalgo Awards, which recognize those who have made tremendous contributions in service to the San Antonio community.

One of his proudest honors was a book by his students entitled, “Tejano Epic: Essays in Honor of Felix D. Almaráz Jr.” Tejano Epic is a tribute to Almaráz, compiled to recognize his outstanding service on behalf of Texas history and the state’s Hispanic past. The book shares several essays in honor of Almaráz. All of the contributors are well-known scholars in the field of Tejano history such as Arnoldo De Leon and Jesus F. de la Teja; all were touched by Almaráz’s exemplary scholarship, warm friendship and consummate professionalism.

Department of Anthropology Professor Robert Hard shared his fond memories of Almaráz.

“As a junior professor and archaeologist in our former Division of Behavioral and Cultural Sciences, Felix was warm and welcoming and would occasionally drop by my office. We both received our doctorate at the University of New Mexico and enjoyed our recollections of UNM and the Lobos. We also shared interests in the past of Texas and the American Southwest. His resonant voice energetically pronouncing the name of each student at Commencement is another warm remembrance.”

View Felix Almaráz Jr.’s obituary.

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Almaráz was known for his kind and generous spirit. He was always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need, and he was deeply committed to social justice and equality. He was a beloved member of the UTSA community, and his loss is felt deeply by his colleagues, students and friends.

“Felix Almaráz was a perennial student favorite at UTSA,” said Department of History Chair Wing Chung Ng. “Students respected and adored him for his deep knowledge of the subject matter at hand and his love of teaching. Dr. Almaráz was especially fond of historical reenactment, impersonating characters with charm and instilling into the lesson a sense of great drama that will not be forgotten.”

Almaráz will be deeply missed. His impact on the study of history and on the lives of those he touched will be felt for generations to come.

Nick Ward

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