Latin Americanist Among First to Receive Ph.D. at UNM

September 5, 2012

Because of the geographic location and unique cultural history of New Mexico, the University of New Mexico (UNM) has emphasized Latin American Studies since the early 1930s. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that a Latin Americanist, Marie Pope Wallis, was among the first to receive a Ph.D. at UNM.

In a recent UNMToday article, ("Ever Wonder Who Received the First Ph.D. at UNM?") Karen Wentworth delves into the book, "Miracle on the Mesa," written by former UNM president William "Bud" Davis, and discovers that Davis writes about the first students to receive doctoral degrees from UNM: "Marie Pope Wallis and Hector H. Lee - were the first to get their doctorates at the June 7, 1947 commencement."

In following up on Davis' observation, Wentworth notes that Lee's degree and research were in English, with a focus on American Studies; he went on after graduating from UNM to become a prolific writer and professor at the University of Utah and Sonoma State College in California. While Lee focused on the folklore and history of the Southwest, Wallis apparently pursued research in and about Latin America, with a focus on Brazil.

According to Wentworth, Wallis earned her degree "in Iberian American Studies/Spanish and Ibero-American Literature, and her dissertation was on "Modern Women Poets of Brazil. She did a translation called "Intersection," of the Peruvian poetry of Teresa Maria Llona in 1950. A condensation of her Brazilian poets study came out in 1972. She was received into the Brazilian Academy, one of the highest honors a literary scholar can achieve." All told, Wentworth continues, "Wallis earned six higher degrees, taught in the Albuquerque Public Schools, at the Laguna Indian School and in the UNM History and Language departments, as well as in Italy, Spain and South America."

To read the complete article about Lee and Wallis, visit UNMToday.