Rafael Mario Pérez Sandoval, Professor Emeritus at California State University, Northridge, passed away August 11, 2021 at his home in West Hills. He was 87.
Born in 1933 in Oaxaca de Juárez, México, he was the son of a widowed nurse who traveled from village to village as part of the government’s successful campaign to eradicate smallpox through vaccination. After graduating with honors from the Jesuit-run Instituto de Ciencias of Guadalajara in 1949, he emigrated with his mother to the United States. In Los Angeles, he earned his BA (1957), MA (1966) and PhD (1968) degrees at the University of Southern California.
There he also met the Spanish expatriate writer and professor Ramón J. Sender, who went on to be his doctoral dissertation advisor, lifelong friend and mentor.
During the 1950s and 60s, Professor Pérez Sandoval was very involved in community service and campus associations for foreign students. He was Educational Chairman of the Latin-American Civic Association and wrote a weekly column in Spanish for the San Fernando Valley Sun entitled “Las Cosas y Casos.” He taught Spanish in public high school and adult education.
In 1969 Professor Pérez Sandoval joined the faculty of the new Department of Mexican-American Studies at San Fernando Valley State College (now Dept. of Chicana/o Studies at CSUN). He developed rigorous classes in Mexican literature and philosophy, and was able to arrange for internationally known literary figures such as Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes to speak at CSUN.
He may be remembered well in the words of 1971 department chairman Carlos Arce who wrote: “Brilliant. Dr. Pérez Sandoval is the most creative teacher I have known. He is strict, objective and fair. His ideas, suggestions and criticisms have helped shape the department. He is both respected and admired by all personnel.”
Professor Pérez Sandoval retired in 1994, and while caring for his aging mother, continued work on his Diccionario de Chicanismos, an expansive etymological dictionary of Chicano vocabulary begun decades earlier, to be left to CSUN. He is survived by his children Estela Narrie, Rafael Pérez-Torres and Mario Eliseo Pérez.