A memorial program and reception to celebrate the life of Ernesto Martínez, emeritus professor and alumnus of California State University, Fresno, and his role in the university’s first century will be held on campus Thursday, June 10, following his funeral Mass and interment.
Professor Martínez died June 3. He was 71. He retired from Fresno State in 2001 after 30 years on the faculty.
He was recalled by former colleague Dr. Theresa Perez as “a pillar of strength during those turbulent years when the campus was closed to our community, and we were pushing hard to open the doors for minority students,”
The reception will be from approximately 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the University Dining Hall.
Professor Martínez’s Fresno State academic career included co-founding the La Raza Studies Program (now the Department of Chicano/Latin American Studies), the internationally acclaimed Los Danzantes de Aztlán Mexican folkloric dance troupe and Fresno State’s Chicano Commencement Celebration (now Latino Commencement Celebration).
Frances Peña-Olgin, president of the Chicano Alumni chapter of the Fresno State Alumni Association and longtime close friend, said a presentation of Professor Martinez’s accomplishments and place in Fresno State history will be featured. There will be comments from family members and other speakers.
Carmen Lugo-Steinman, Professor Martínez’s niece and also an alumna of Fresno State, said the family invites his friends and colleagues to share in the celebration. She said remembrances can be sent to the Chicano Alumni Ernesto Martínez Memorial Scholarship in care of the Fresno State Alumni Association.
Perez, who won’t be able to attend, shared an office with Professor Martínez when La Raza Studies was in its infancy.
“Ernie was always someone who stood up for what he believed in,” said Perez, who left Fresno State in 1998 for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte where she continues to be a professor of education. “ Danzantes was his way of sharing the best of our culture with the public, and the group was always part of the movement.”
She recalls “many memorable times during the years of protest at Fresno State,” including a hunger strike where faculty and students camped out in tents in front of the library.
“Ernie was right in the middle of it all cheering us on,” said Perez after upon learning of his passing. “He never lost sight of what the struggle was about and will always be remembered as one of the pioneers of that historic period.”
Free parking is available for the reception in Lot G (enter campus at Scott Avenue from Cedar Avenue, north of Shaw Avenue. Guests must obtain a permit by entering parking code number 13170013 at the parking permit dispenser.