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Timothy McGovern 1965-2006


Tim McGovern was the director of the language program for the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at UCSB. An expert in 19th-century Spanish literature, he focused on Benito Pérez Galdós in his dissertation and in one of his first books. Tim was also an integral part of the intercampus focus group UC Mexicanistas, led in part by our own renowned professor Sara Poot-Herrera, whose eulogy to Tim follows.

In addition to the thousands of undergraduate students who passed through his program, Tim supported and mentored nearly every graduate student in the department. So many of us who benefited from his classes, workshops, and advice long to tell how Tim resolved our titanic problems, helped us continue in school with emotional and material help in the form of TA-ships, and kept us focused on our possibilities and talents. Tim’s generosity was astounding, and the number of people who once found themselves in his hands and now find themselves out in the world, doing what they thought they might not be able to do, is vast.

All of us feel Tim’s loss deeply. He will be mourned and sorely missed, but his teaching will live on in all of us who learned from him, as we in turn educate the next generation of teachers.  

— Ilana Dann Luna and Cheyla Samuelson

Tim,

Siempre estuviste antes que nada, antes que todos.

Llegaste a Santa Bárbara antes de que concluyera la primavera, aquel fin de cursos de 1998, cuando las clases comenzarían en el otoño. Y ese verano, mucho antes de Septiembre, trabajaste los siete días y las siete noches de la semana para que todos aprendieran una o dos de las lenguas extranjeras que desde mucho antes hiciste tuyas. ¡Bien sabías que habías de enseñar a quienes enseñaban y lo siguen y seguirán haciendo!

Hablabas tan rápido que las palabras se adelantaban a las sílabas y las oraciones atropellaban a las palabras. ¡Qué rápido entraba en confianza la gente contigo! En la universidad, en la calle, en todas partes.

Tanto y tan pronto leíste a Galdós, joven galdosiano, que volviste fantástico al realista de todos los tiempos.

Fuiste lecturer y muy pronto profesor. Con la gran carga del primero cumpliste también con el cargo del segundo: clases extra, clases inventadas por ti, clases de requisito, clases en otros programas; investigaciones y publicaciones como peninsularista y luego como mexicanista. Fuiste trasatlántico a tu manera e incursionaste en los ahora llamados queer studies.

En tan pocos años dirigiste tres tesis de doctorado; eras miembro de otras tesis, y cuántas investigaciones guiaste y cuántos cursos independientes y otros estudios. Qué bien protegiste y estimulaste a los estudiantes “no graduados.” ¡Cuánta carta de recomendación para ellos y para los “graduados.” Cuántas asesorías anuales para éstos y también durante el año, para ir preparados y bien trajeados a la búsqueda feroz en el MLA, a donde muchas veces los acompañaste. Ellos iban y volvían, respondían a las entrevistas y finalmente se despedían, pero nunca de ti: una llamada, muchas; una tarjeta, tantas; un correo por segundo.

Cuánto pero cuánto trabajo que de tan bien hecho no se notaba tu esfuerzo.

Le ganabas al sol por la mañana para cumplir con todo y con todos; para hacer la tarea cotidiana porque la pesada ya la habías adelantado, incluyendo en los avances tus ponencias, tus reseñas, tus correcciones, tus escritos.

Aun así seguías tocando la guitarra, dibujando tus monitos, oyendo el rock de años anteriores, prendiendo las veladoras de tu apartamento de King Road en West Hollywood, paseando a Barney, luego a Casey, conversando con tu mamá, cuidándonos a todos, creyéndonos todos únicos con tus cuidados.

Hace unas semanas te nos adelantaste. Poco antes acompañaste a tu madre después de darle dos vueltas al parque a tu perro. Nos llamaste varias veces. Discretamente, y sin saberlo, ella te dejó solo y después te encontró sin que hubieras dado molestias a nadie. Al amanecer nos quedamos esperándote; te nos fuiste al cielo con todo y botas.

Cuando al fin nos reunamos contigo, cruzarás los brazos y comprenderás que nosotros seguiremos como siempre estando atrasados en todo.

Tim, gracias a ti ya no tengo miedo a la muerte.

— Sara Poot-Herrera

Tim,

You were always there before it all, before everyone.

You arrived in Santa Barbara before the close of spring, that end of quarter in 1998 when classes didn’t start until the fall. And that summer, long before September, you worked seven days and seven nights per week so that everyone could learn one or two of the foreign languages you already knew. You knew that you had to teach those who taught — and they still teach, and will continue to do so.

You talked so fast that the words got ahead of the syllables and your sentences steamrolled the words themselves. How quickly people trusted you — at the university, on the street, everywhere.

As soon as you read Galdós, young Galdosian, you turned the great realist of all times into a writer of the fantastic.

You were a lecturer and very quickly became a professor. With the weight of the former, you shouldered the responsibility of the latter: extra classes, ones you invented yourself; requirements; classes in other departments; research and publications as a Peninsularist and then as a Mexicanist. You were transatlantic in a way only you could be, and you made incursions into what we now call queer studies.

In so few years, you directed three doctoral theses, and were a member on committees for others. And how many research projects did you guide? And how many independent courses and other studies? How well you protected and stimulated the undergraduates. How many letters of recommendation did you write for them, and for the graduate students? How many yearly workshops for them, and then, during the year, mock interviews so that they would go prepared and well dressed to the ferocious MLA job hunt, where you even accompanied them so many times? They would go and return, respond to the interviews and finally say goodbye — but never to you. For you, there were many a phone call, countless cards, an email every second.

So, so much work that you did so well it seemed almost effortless. You beat out the sunrise in order to do it all, and for everybody, to do the daily work because the hard stuff you would have already finished ahead of schedule, including your conference papers, your reviews, your corrections, and your articles.

Even so, you kept playing the guitar; drawing your little characters; listening to classic rock; lighting the candles in your apartment on King Road in West Hollywood; walking your dog Barney, then Casey; talking to your mom; taking care of all of us, believing us all to be unique in your care.

A few weeks ago you got ahead of us. You had just accompanied your mother twice around the park with your dog. You called us a couple of times. Discreetly, and without knowing it, she left you alone and then she found you, without you having caused trouble for anyone. At sunrise, we were left waiting for you. You left us for heaven, boots and all.

When we finally see you again, you’ll cross your arms and you’ll understand that we’ll continue to be, as always, behind in everything.

Tim, because of you, I’m no longer afraid of death.

— Translated by Ilana Dann Luna

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