Julius Rivera

By on March 26, 2014

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JULIUS RIVERA, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Anthropology, passed away February 19, 2014, at his home in Austin, surrounded by his family.  Comments on his dedication website describe Dr. Rivera as a scholar of integrity, full-hearted, and an eloquent supporter of justice and civil liberties.  He dedicated his life to opening doors for his students and providing opportunities for members of the Latino community.  He inspired others, moving them to examine the world around them.  A lover of knowledge and learning, he continued to expand his own horizons until his final days.

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Dr. Rivera was born in December of 1917, in Timaná, Colombia.  He held graduate degrees from Colombian universities, the University of Detroit, and Michigan State University, where he earned a PhD.  He taught at Texas Tech University, the University of Arizona, and the University of Houston before coming to UTEP.  He was dedicated to achieving international peace by solving border issues.  He was a Fulbright Scholar in Santiago, Chile, and served the National Science Foundation in a variety of different capacities.  His thirst for knowledge led him to become involved in UTEP’s Center for Lifelong Learning  (now OLLI), which offers a variety of classes for people of all ages who share a love of learning.

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Dr. Rivera’s love for learning was matched by his love for travelling the world.  He spent time travelling with colleagues in his quest for knowledge. For instance, he and Dr. Howard Campbell made a research trip together to Central America when Dr. Rivera was already in his 80s.  Dr. Rivera was equally devoted to his family.  He and his family travelled extensively throughout his life and some of their fondest memories are of their many travels together.  His wife, Linda Rose Gerstenberger Rivera, is also an educator and she understood her husband’s need to expand his horizons. She supported him in all of his scholarly endeavors wherever they led.  Together they had three children, Lisa, Julian, and Marcos, who in turn gave them four wonderful granddaughters, Lakshmi, Lekha, Liliana, and Lola.  His three great loves-family, learning, and world travel-were the forces behind Dr. Rivera’s life.

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Dr. Rivera became a member of the UTEP Heritage Commission in 1994. He became an Emeritus member when he moved to Austin in 2010.  He was a dedicated “Keeper of Tradition” until his death.  After Dr. Rivera retired, he continued his research, working from his office in the UTEP Library.  He served as the liaison between the Sociology Department and the Library, recommending books for purchase.  He had many friends among the library staff who miss his presence.  Juan Sandoval, a reference librarian, remembers Dr. Rivera fondly.  “His presence was ubiquitous; he was constantly engaged in teaching and research.  He was always working on his next book.” Mr. Sandoval frequently assisted Dr. Rivera in his research and the two became very close.  “Julius and I bonded because I had spent a summer in Bucaramanga, Colombia studying Spanish and had an appreciation for his country.”

Even in the last few years of his life he read widely in multilingual sources of news, academic writings and literature.   He was passionate about music, poetry, and literature.  His contributions to the field of Sociology and Anthropology are reflected in his numerous publications including editions of Latin America: A Sociocultural Interpretation and a collection of his poetry, Poemas y Evocación.  The Special Collections Department has a collection of his works.  The Julius Rivera Papers contain materials relating to his career as a professor of sociology at UTEP, books, newspaper clippings, reports, and correspondence.

A small memorial exhibit will be on display on the second floor of the University Library starting March 25.  Robert Stakes, a former colleague and director of the University Library, commented that Dr. Rivera was the “epitome of a gentleman and a scholar.”

A memorial service will be held at Remembrance Gardens in Austin, his recently adopted hometown, at two in the afternoon on April 18, 2014.


Julius Rivera papers, MS 162, C. L. Sonnichsen Special Collections Dept., The University of Texas at El Paso Library.

Julius Rivera: A Life of Love and Learning–Julius Rivera.com

Juan Sandoval

Sebastian Diaz

Claudia Rivers


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