Stanford University News Service



CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (650) 723-2558

Juan B. Rael, professor emeritus of Spanish, dies at 93

STANFORD -- Juan Bautista Rael, 93, professor emeritus of Spanish and an expert on Spanish folk tales, died of heart failure Monday, Nov. 8, in Menlo Park.

Rael was a member of the Stanford faculty for 31 years. He also founded and directed, from 1953 to 1971, the Guadalajara Summer School of the University of Arizona.

Rael was born to a Spanish colonial family in the northern New Mexico village of Arroyo Hondo, where his father was a merchant and sheep rancher. He earned his bachelor's degree from St. Mary's College, then located in Oakland.

According to Rael's son, Jose Ignacio Rael of Amarillo, Texas, his father's family wanted him to go into law to protect the family's ranching and business interests. However, the senior Rael, his son said, "was personally challenged to capture the folk tales that had entertained the Spanish settlers for more than 200 years . . . and to teach."

Rael earned his master's degree from the University of California-Berkeley in 1927, then taught at the University of Oregon. In 1933, he declined a position at the University of Chicago and accepted an invitation from Aurelio Espinosa Sr., professor of Spanish, to come to Stanford.

Under Espinosa's guidance, Rael earned his doctorate in Spanish literature in 1937. His doctoral dissertation, said his son, represents the largest collection of Spanish folk tales in North or South America.

He joined the Stanford faculty in 1934 as an instructor in Spanish, and became an assistant professor in 1937, an associate professor in 1943 and a professor in 1951. He was a specialist in Spanish composition, Spanish-American literature and Mexican culture. He retired in 1965.

His books include Cuentos Espanoles de Colorado y de Nuevo Mejico (Spanish Tales from Colorado and New Mexico), published in 1957 by Stanford University Press. The two volumes offer 500 stories transcribed from Spanish-speaking storytellers. He is also the author of The New Mexican 'Alabado' and Sources and Diffusion of the Mexican Shepherds' Plays.

In 1946, Rael began summer tours through major Mexican cities for Stanford students. This led to his founding, in 1953, the Guadalajara Summer School, an early effort to provide instruction for American students in a foreign country. About half the school's teachers were professors from major U.S. universities and half were Mexican professors and instructors.

Rael was elected to the Academia Norte Americana de la Lengua Espanola in 1974 and to the Spanish Royal Academy in 1983.

In addition to his son, Rael is survived by two daughters, Maria Soledad Nowell of Monterey and Maximina Roberta Traynor of Sunnyvale; a sister, Carolina Domingues of Arroyo Hondo; 16 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren. Rael's wife of 68 years, known as "Nina," died in 1991.

Funeral services were held Nov. 12 in St. Denis Catholic Church, Menlo Park. The family requests that any memorial contributions be made to Stanford University.


This is an archived release.

This release is not available in any other form. Images mentioned in this release are not available online.
Stanford News Service has an extensive library of images, some of which may be available to you online. Direct your request by EMail to

© Stanford University. All Rights Reserved. Stanford, CA 94305. (650) 723-2300.