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Memorial scheduled for English professor

An informal memorial for Lora Romero, assistant professor of English, will be held today, Wednesday, Oct. 22, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Old Union Courtyard. All are welcome.

"I and all of my colleagues in the English department are devastated by Lora's death," said Terry Castle, chair of the department. "She was a highly esteemed and cherished friend and colleague to all of us, and we are shaken and deeply saddened by her death."

Romero's death on Oct. 10 was ruled a suicide by the San Mateo County Coroner's office.

"The fact that her death was a suicide, and the fact that we now know that she had so much sadness in her life, makes it all the harder for us to bear," Castle added. "She was loved by her students and she will be greatly missed by all of the English department faculty and staff. It has been a hard, hard blow for everyone."

Castle said the English department has committed $50,000 to establishing the Lora Romero Memorial Fund.

The memorial on Oct. 22 is co-sponsored by El Centro Chicano, the Stanford Center for Chicano Research, Casa Zapata, the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, the English department, the Office of the Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, and the Office of the Associate Dean of Religious Life. Several faculty members and students will offer brief remembrances, and microphones will be provided for anyone who wishes to make comments.

Romero, 37, was a specialist in 19th- and 20th-century American fiction and Chicano/a cultural studies who also taught gender theory. She did not live to see publication of her first book, Home Fronts: Domesticity and Its Critics in the United States, 1820-1870, a study of classic American novelists and less frequently acknowledged popular women writers of the period, which arrived in English department mailboxes last week.

"One of Lora's great strengths was her ability to teach both 'classic' and non-canonical American literary texts, showing how they throw light on each other and in many instances need to be juxtaposed with each other in order to be understood in depth," said George Dekker, professor of English and former associate dean of graduate policy, who visited a number of Romero's classes on 19th-century American writers, at her request. "That capability and expertise were of special importance to graduate students in English and in Modern Thought and Literature, many of whom saw her as a mentor and indispensable resource."

A former Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow, Romero also was a member of the National Council of the American Studies Association. She graduated from Stanford and earned her master's and doctoral degrees from the University of California-Berkeley.

Before she arrived at Stanford as an assistant professor in 1993, Romero had taught at Princeton University and at the University of Texas at Austin. She was the recipient of the 1991 Forester Prize awarded by American Literature, and was a member of the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the National Association of Chicano/a Scholars. She had served on committees addressing issues of American literature and popular culture in the MLA.

As an assistant professor of English, Romero had been a co-adviser for the summer Honors College and served on the department's graduate admissions committee and Chicano/a search committee. She also served on committees for the Writing and Critical Thinking Program and the Modern Thought and Literature Program.

Romero was a resident fellow in Casa Zapata from 1995 to 1997 and had served on committees at El Centro Chicano and the Stanford Center for Chicano Research. She was a member of the advisory committee of the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community Center from 1995 to 1996.

Romero had been scheduled to teach a Stanford Introductory Studies freshman seminar on "Introduction to Chicano Culture" in winter quarter. In describing the course, she articulated many of the issues that her students and colleagues are discussing in the wake of her death:

"Some of the questions students will be encouraged to think about in relation to the reading are: What does it mean to be Chicano or Chicana? What is the relationship between politics and culture? What contribution can artists make to activist causes? What is assimilation? What is biculturalism? How do ethnic artists mediate between innovation and preservation of tradition? How do gender and sexuality interact with ethnic identity?"

A native Californian, Romero was born in Chino in 1960 and had recently moved to Redwood City. She is survived by her parents, Alice and George Romero, of San Anselmo, and a sister.

Romero's family has asked that no flowers or donations be made in her name. She was buried on Oct. 18 at Mt. Tamalpais Cemetery and Mortuary in San Rafael.

An altar, assembled by students at El Centro Chicano, displays items that had special meaning for Romero, including an image of the Sacred Heart, a framed photo of her dog, Scully, and sunflowers. Tejano music and CDs by Los Lobos, one of Romero's favorite musical groups, will be played at the memorial, and visitors will have an opportunity to write personal notes on cards that will be given to Romero's family.


By Diane Manuel

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