By Chanel Ward
Dr. Ramón Del Castillo, former Chair of the Chicana/o Studies Department at Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver, Colorado, and current professor in his last term, was celebrated as he is set to retire this month. Current and former students, faculty, friends and family showed up to wish the man that made an impact on their lives a proper Chicano farewell.
Everybody took a turn sharing their memories or stories about Dr. Ramón, thanking him for his sacrifices and teachings and sharing different timelines over the impression his 25 years had left at MSU, while his wife, Dorothy, sat by his side. The one thing that remained throughout all of the change was the pride carrying the lost history of a culture and race – ironically – through the educational system to which he tirelessly worked towards preserving.
As a scholar of Social Justice and Activism in the Chicana/o Community, which happens to be the name of a class created and finally implemented by Dr. Ramón just a few years ago, is the class that he is teaching this semester for the last time. It is a class that takes all of his first-hand knowledge and scholarly minded approach, and wraps it in a neat package for all to access and effortlessly learn from.
“I started at Metropolitan State College before it was a university in 1984, after I finished my first Masters’ Degree,” explained Dr. Ramón. “I worked in the sociology department for 12 years and would occasionally teach a class in Chicano studies, a class in each department. Then in 1996, when Dr. Luis Torres came on board, I asked him to be moved into the department as an affiliate faculty, so at that point in time, I did.”
Dr. Ramón taught as an affiliate faculty in the Chicana/o Studies Department from 1996 to 2006, eventually gaining tenure. Then later in 2007, he became chair up until his retirement before the fall semester in 2019. However, this was not the only university to be educated by Dr. Ramón.
“I taught at Regis University in a fulltime position for five years,” he informed, while adding, “I was the chair of the Masters Program in nonprofit management from 1999 to about 2006. I’ve also taught at the Community College of Denver and for the CU [University of Colorado] Succeed Concurrent Enrollment classes. I also taught at Park College at St. Thomas Seminary back in 1985; I instructed classes in Chicano History and Philosophy.”
Even with his impressive catalogue, he continued forward with MSU being the university he would shape, and then retire from. “I was really interested in being at a university where there was diversity and in working towards that goal, it was the prime place for me to be and to have people of color in my classes,” explained Dr. Ramón.
MSU is known for its diversity, gaining Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) designation in February of 2019 with 5,469 enrolled Hispanic and Latino students, which Dr. Ramon had a hand in securing with former President Stephen Jordan, Ph.D., starting in 2007 up until its designation with current president, Janine Davidson, PhD.
In addition to its confirming HSI status, MSU is one of a kind and unlike any other university – and not because it shares a campus with Community College of Denver and University of Colorado Denver, nor its prime location in the heart of Denver that proudly displays its rich Mexican-American culture – but because of its Chicana/o Studies department.
“It was the only department in the state of Colorado that was a full- fledged department with a degree, a major, a minor and different certificate programs, that was unique, and I wanted to be in that kind of institution,” Dr. Ramon stated. “The most memorable parts of being there was that we could shape curriculum that was in response to the needs in our community.”
Social justice and activism continues to grow in size every semester as well as the Chicana/o Studies department, thanks to Dr. Ramón and his staff who wanted to really do something special for his departure.
“We know that you’re not going to be gone, we know that we will call on you and I probably will when things come up,” expressed new chair, Adriana Nieto, PhD.
Both Sonia Del Real, Administrative Assistant and Dr. Nieto closed with one final story, “This is something that you always say when you get up and talk in front of people,” said Dr. Nieto as she described, “you have a PhD. and you kind of half joke that you’re a ‘pachuco highly developed’ and so Sonia came up with this wonderful idea to give you this engraved plaque and it’s really beautiful,” said Dr. Nieto presenting the plaque reading, “Mochihuiliztli Ramón Del Castillo PhD. (Pachuco Highly Developed) MSU Denver Department of Chicana/o Studies.”
Dr. Ramón was extremely humbled and grateful for the campus community gathering, and as the mariachi band filled the room with music, so did shared smiles and warm goodbyes. For now. Dr. Ramón said that he is going to enjoy retirement and spend much needed time with his wife and family, a part of his life he looks forward to fulfilling. But don’t think this is the end; Dr. Ramón will continue writing for El Semanario and may just get around to writing that long awaited novel. Thank you Dr. Ramón, from a former and forever student.
(Cover photo: Dr. Ramón Del Castillo and Dr. Adriana Nieto).
Chanel Ward is an Independent Reporter for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.
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