Celebrating the past, enlightening the future

Celebrating the past, enlightening the future

Aerial shot of South American ruins.Aerial shot of South American ruins.Group shot of staff, faculty and students in University Center.Ground level shot of South American ruins.Group shot of staff, faculty and students in University Center.

A living legacy for generations to come

Alfredo Morales and Gigi Gaucher-Morales.
Emeritus Professor Alfredo Morales and his late wife, Gigi Gaucher-Morales.

With a gift to the University, Emeritus Professor of
Spanish Alfredo Morales created two endowments: The Morales Family
Lecture Series Endowment and The Morales Family Endowed Scholarship. In
establishing the gifts to the University, Morales and his family wanted to
recognize the University at which he and his wife worked most of their
professional careers, and also honor his late wife, French and Spanish Professor
Jeanine (Gigi) Gaucher-Morales. One endowment helps support the annual memorial
lecture series and conference, and the second funds scholarships for students
interested in
Mesoamerican Studies.

Together, the couple dedicated several decades of service
to the University and its students and are credited with founding and running a
Spanish theater program for more than 20 years.

Following his wife’s 2007 death, Morales decided he wanted
to celebrate her passion for teaching, and support students' ongoing exposure to
new cultures and the arts. The couple had previously committed themselves to
giving to the University jointly, but it was with the help of the University’s
development staff that Morales was able to see his new vision through, he said.

“My dad knew that students loved her,” said Morales’ son, Renee
Morales. “She was dedicated to the Teatro and he wanted to make sure that
her contribution to the University would never be forgotten, and that even 20
years from now people would benefit from her contributions.”

The study and exploration of ancient cultures thrives at
Cal State L.A. in the investigation of Maya languages, in the discussion of the
political and cultural perspectives of a Nobel laureate, and the study of a
Colonial Mexico era poet and playwright’s musings.

Each May, hundreds of students, community members, and
educators from around the world converge for a conference that not only pays
homage to the past, but also reinforces history’s relevance and uncovers lessons
for the future. The series has drawn a diverse group of leading scholars from as
far as Japan—and expectations are that interest will blossom and flourish well
into the future.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” said
Chicano Studies and

Professor Roberto Cantú, the series director. “The role of a university, the
role of CSULA, is to prepare students to be part of a larger world, to know
where they have come from and understand how we are all connected. And we are
doing that; we are exposing our students to what Los Angeles represents—a city
tied to the rest of the world.”

This deeper understanding of cultures has been made
possible, in part, through the Morales Family Lecture Series Endowment. Crafted
by Emeritus Professor of Spanish Alfredo Morales, the endowment helped
create the Gigi Gaucher-Morales Memorial Lecture Series in memory of Morales’
wife, the late Gaucher-Morales. She was a French and Spanish professor at Cal
State L.A. from 1965 to 2005, who taught the literature and culture of France,
of the Anglophone world, and of Latin America, including the Caribbean. With her
husband, Gaucher-Morales also co-founded, directed and served as the advisor of
Cal State L.A.’s Teatro Universitario en Español for more than 20 years.

“Gigi loved—so much—her students and Teatro,” said Morales,
who sought to create a tribute that would also serve the University and its
students. “And now, Gigi belongs to the University. …In doing this, the Morales
family shares Gigi and her dreams for students for years to come. I feel like
I’m in heaven.”

The Gaucher-Morales lecture series began at a
conference that explored Mesoamerica
through music, literature, language,
landmarks and cultural references. Cantú and his colleagues organized the
conference in an effort to promote a newly established minor in
and to draw critical discussion about ancient codes, cultures and

 “It was one of the most exciting things that I’ve had the
pleasure to work on,” said Assistant Professor of English
Aaron Sonnenschein.
“Graduate and undergraduate students were able to meet some of the most
important scholars in Mesoamerican Studies, and faculty had the opportunity to

“It made a lot of people who don’t know what’s going on at
Cal State L.A. aware,” Sonnenschein added. “It was an incredible way of showing
that we can be a part of the community, and a cultural center for the

Among those to participate, was Harvard University
Professor and Mesoamerica archive founder
David Carrasco.  

Of his experience at the conference, Carrasco said: “(Cal
State L.A.) was both architecturally remarkable and intellectually on fire due
to Roberto Cantú’s intellectual leadership at linking top notch scholars working
on socially significant issues and problems in order to give the students vivid
and profound learning experiences. Too often, contemporary scholarship obsesses
itself with…the latest fad or icon, ignoring the genealogy of thought, the
diversity of philosophic orientations and human inventions.”

The 2010 spring conference was rooted around the
legacy of Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz, one of the world’s foremost poets and
essayists. With ties throughout the world, Paz served as Mexico’s ambassador to
India in the 1960s, translated Chinese poetry, edited literary journals, and
promoted literate culture in Latin America, France, England and the United
States. The 2011 conference, to run May 13-14, will delve into the work of
author and colonial nun Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648 – 1695) and the
contradictory cultural currents in 17th century New Spain.

Cantú said that he is also using some of the funding from
the Morales Family Endowment to coordinate and sponsor a
February 2011 conference on modernity,
critique and humanism

 “This lecture series represents what Gigi was to all of
us—she was very cosmopolitan, she was international, and she devoted her life to
being a good professor, a good educator to all of her students,” Cantú said.