Friday, May 05, 2023

Honoring Mary Ontiveros

This week, Flo and I drove to Fort Collins, CO., to attend a Colorado State University (CSU) building renaming ceremony that honored a friend, Mary Ontiveros. Mary is also one of my heroes. Here's what the CSU Magazine editor, Kate Jeracki, wrote about Mary and the celebration:

Mary Ontiveros was a stalwart Ram for more than 50 years, coming to Fort Collins as a student in 1969 and retiring as Colorado State University’s first Vice President for Diversity – and the first Latina vice president in University history – in 2020.

More than 300 people from all aspects of Ontiveros’ rich and varied life gathered at the corner of Laurel and Shields streets on May 3 to celebrate renaming the building there the Mary Ontiveros House. The Office of Inclusive Excellence is now located in the first building on campus named for a Latina.

Jeracki's entire column can be found at this link.

Polly Baca, Manuel Ramos, Mary Ontiveros

I should add that the building once served as the home of the university president. During the tense and vibrant months of student protest in 1968 - 1970, student activists carried out various acts of disruption and civil disobedience to pressure the university administration into supporting progressive changes. They also participated in numerous meetings and negotiation sessions with university administrators and faculty. In 1969, student activists camped on the lawn of the president's house as part of their protest and demonstrations -- acts that eventually changed CSU with programs that continue to this day. It is appropriate and highly symbolic that the house has been renamed for Mary.

Mary was a tireless champion for diversity, equity, and inclusion. She struggled and fought for more minority student recruitment, more resources for students of color, and a more humane and meaningful academic experience for all students.

The renaming ceremony was a public recognition by CSU of all the great work Mary accomplished, as well as acknowledgement that there is still much work to be done. The current university president, speaking at the ceremony, emphasized Mary's role in bringing positive change to varied aspects of CSU. The president also declared that her goal was to make CSU a Hispanic Serving Institution, although she admitted there is "a long road ahead."

After a protracted battle with breast cancer, Mary passed away in 2022. Her legacy lives on with every student of color admitted to CSU.


Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction. Read his latest story, Northside Nocturne, in Denver Noir, edited by Cynthia Swanson, published by Akashic Books.

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