ILaLS Announces the Brother Camillus Chavez Student Award

Brother Camillus Chavez, FSCThe Institute for Latino and Latin American Studies (ILaLS) is pleased to announce the creation of the Brother Camillus Chavez ILaLS Student Award. This award is meant to provide support for students who are studying Latinx diasporas or Latin America. The award will be announced at a celebration for Brother Camillus’ 90th birthday held on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at 6:30 p.m. in Claeys Lounge.

Brother Camillus, FSC, has been a key presence on the campus and has shaped and influenced the lives of many generations of students at Saint Mary’s. He truly embodies the College’s mission and identity as a liberal arts, Catholic, and Lasallian institution. Through his support of students and his commitment to excellence and diversity, Brother Camillus has advanced the College’s core values.

“This award celebrates his 44 years at SMC, supports current and future SMC students, and will make even more indelible his legacy,” said Professor Maria Luisa Ruiz, director of the ILaLS.

“I am very honored and very surprised in some ways, and very gratified by this,” said Brother Camillus, between teaching the meditation courses he offers to students and staff. “It’s wonderful. It’s the culmination of a lifetime: 44 years here and this comes up, so I’m very happy about that.”

Ruiz explained the institue's history: “The Institute for Latino and Latin American Studies was started about three years ago, basically with the energy of three faculty who just wanted to make more present Latino scholarship and scholarship around Latin America at Saint Mary’s, especially given that we finally have HSI [Hispanic-Serving Institution] status,” Ruiz added. “We want to make that central at the College also because it’s part of the mission, embracing diversity in terms of really reflecting the student body.”

Anyone who’s worked beside Brother Camillus knows he’s the perfect namesake for an award.

“One of the things that we talked about at the institute was the need to look back at the presence of people of color on campus. And in particular, Latinos at St Mary's—and of course, Brother Camillus has been at the institution going on 50 years,” Ruiz said.

“I did a few interviews with him just to ask him about his recollections at St Mary's. And it became very clear that he just has connections with so many alumni and he has influenced and impacted so many students, both in his classes and his support of students who still reach out to him. We wanted to both honor his legacy while also recognizing Latino students as integral to Saint Mary’s.”

The festivities will feature Ballet Folklórico, a favorite of Brother Camillus, along with food, poetry, and a raffle. Guests will be treated to a slideshow that shows Brother Camillus at SMC over the years and are invited to participate in a community project to create a memory wall with their stories about Brother Camillus.

“The evening is also an opportunity for alumni, in particular alumni of color, Latinos, to be part of the award, which is a way for them to contribute to something that they may feel invested in, in some way. Alumni can both celebrate and make a contribution,” said Ruiz.

Ruiz added that donations are always accepted even if alumni can’t make the event. Much more information is available about the institute at its website.

Ruiz and other members of the institute are delighted with its progress. “In the short time that we've been a program, we’ve brought movie directors to campus. We have brought [state senator] María Elena Durazo to speak. But we're doing this without a lot of financial support. Having co-sponsors is really important for us. The fact that we’re able to get sponsors from across the College shows just how much Brother Camillus is integral to the College—and that the institute is also integral to the College.”

ILaLS’ generous co-sponsors include: World Languages and Cultures, the Honors College, Ethnic Studies, The Joseph Alemany Community of Christian Brothers, the Alumni Office, The Office of Mission, the History Department, Sodexo, and Humberto López Jr., owner of Salsa Verde Restaurant.