Campus memorial service planned for Spanish professor Ricardo Gutiérrez-Mouat

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | Sept. 29, 2015

Story image
An Emory professor since 1978, Ricardo Gutiérrez-Mouat served as the first director of the Latin American Studies program. He is remembered as a noted scholar and fierce defender of Latin American literature and culture. Photo courtesy Department of Spanish and Portuguese.

A campus memorial service for longtime Emory Spanish professor Ricardo Gutiérrez-Mouat is planned for Saturday, Oct. 3, at 11 a.m. in Cannon Chapel.

Gutiérrez-Mouat came to Emory in 1978, where he taught courses on Latin American literature and culture, among others, and served as the first director of the Latin American Studies program.

In fact, Gutiérrez-Mouat had already begun teaching two classes this semester — an advanced Spanish seminar and a large lecture class for Latin American and Caribbean Studies — when he received a cancer diagnosis. He died two weeks later on Sept. 18. He was 63.

Colleagues and students say that he will be remembered both as a noted scholar and fierce defender of Latin American literature and culture, as well as for his playful wit and passionate engagement in the classroom.

Within the department, Gutiérrez-Mouat was viewed as something of a senior statesman — no one had been there longer, says María M. Carrión, a fellow professor of Spanish. “Ricardo was a terrific person, a force of nature in the department,” she says.

Each fall, Gutiérrez-Mouat traditionally taught Latin American and Caribbean Studies 101, a large, popular lecture class that has helped introduce thousands of Emory students to the topic over the years.

“He’s done a beautiful job of introducing generations of students to the study of Latin America, dispelling myths, piquing the curiosity of students, and helping them to understand the importance of what they were studying,” recalls Carrión.

“He was a phenomenal teacher, just arresting in the classroom,” she adds. “In general, the students adored him.”

Don Tuten, chair of the Spanish and Portuguese department recalls that Gutiérrez-Mouat was “willing to challenge students’ preconceptions, and even upset them in doing so, but he was always there to support them. He spent countless hours meeting individually with his students to talk about and help them improve their learning, writing and research.”

Amy Linenberger, graduate program coordinator for the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, said that many students remember Gutiérrez-Mouat for his love of teaching, characterized by both his warmth and distinctively playful wit.

She related a story shared by former Emory PhD student Nanci Buiza, now an assistant professor of Spanish at Swarthmore College, who recalls being stopped in the hall one day by Gutiérrez-Mouat, who asked her for the date of the Mexican Revolution.

When Buiza answered, the professor smiled, saying, “Well, it’s been about that long since I’ve received a chapter from you!” she recalls.

 “He was always on top of everything — a phenomenal mentor who was truly committed to his advisees’ success,” Linenberger adds.

‘An athletic, powerful thinker’

Born in Santiago, Chile, Gutiérrez-Mouat grew up in Santiago, Buenos Aires and Lima, Peru. His family moved to the United States in 1968. Over the next decade, he received his B.A. from Duke University and his PhD in Latin American literature from Princeton University.

At Princeton, Gutiérrez-Mouat met José Donoso and was inspired to write his dissertation on the Chilean writer, which would prove an enduring interest.

He had recently finished final corrections on a new book, “Understanding Roberto Bolaño,” which is to be published by the University of South Carolina Press next year, according to Tuten. Gutiérrez-Mouat’s larger research interests focused on contemporary Latin American narrative.

In addition to teaching classes on Latin American literature, Gutiérrez-Mouat also taught courses on topics of violence, human rights, cosmopolitanism and globalization, and soccer as a cultural phenomenon.

An avid soccer fan, he was widely known for his willingness to play pick-up soccer with students and colleagues alike, whenever and wherever the opportunity arose.

“He was enamored of soccer,” Carrión says. “He was playful, a ‘catch me if you can’ person — that’s the way he was in the classroom, too, an athletic and powerful thinker.”

In a tribute page set up through the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, a friend posted a message that Ricardo had earlier shared outlining “Things I have done and would do again,” which included activities such as:

  • Coach young kids at playing soccer;
  • Be invited to a conference and spend the previous night in a hotel room preparing for it — exciting.
  • Turn students on to my subject of interest. Receive gifts from them in gratitude.

 Under the category of “Things I haven’t done (in recent memory) but would like to do,” Gutiérrez-Mouat had noted, “Keep in touch more regularly with friends and colleagues and tell them how much I appreciate them.”

Those who wish to celebrate the life and achievements of Gutiérrez-Mouat are invited to submit memories, anecdotes and photographs for inclusion on the department’s tribute page. Memorial tributes may be sent directly to Linenberger.

Because tributes may be shared at the Saturday, Oct. 3, campus memorial service, they should be submitted no later than Friday, Oct. 2. A reception will follow the service in Brooks Commons, which is located in the chapel.

Gutiérrez-Mouat is survived by his mother, Sylvia Heller; former spouse, Disa Mouat; and two sons, Aidan and Asher Mouat. Asher is a freshman at Emory’s Oxford College. His family has asked that memorial donations be directed to Hospice Atlanta. For instructions, visit http://www.vnhs.org/support-us/.