Fleeing an abusive home and on her own at age 15, Tiffany Ana López planned a career as a Burger King franchise owner. The life of a scholar was unimaginable. But a series of mentors — high school teachers, community college instructors and a Latina poet at Cal State Sacramento — encouraged her to dream big.
López, now a professor of theater at the University of California, Riverside, has named the Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair in Creative Writing. She becomes the second scholar to hold the prestigious endowed chair at UC Riverside, succeeding Juan Felipe Herrera, who has held the position since 2005. Gov. Jerry Brown named Herrera the California Poet Laureate in March, a two-year appointment that will take the Latino poet into classrooms and community centers throughout the state.
“I am incredibly proud to be honored in this way,” said López, a longtime admirer of Rivera for his creativity as a poet and author, his scholarship and his administrative leadership. “When you’re an endowed chair you’re a living memorial. Like Tomás Rivera I feel duty-bound to serve the public by emphasizing that students finish their degrees and have a sense about what they want to do to change the world when they leave the university. Our students represent passion, hope and the future.”
Rivera was UC Riverside’s fourth chancellor, serving from 1979 until his death after a heart attack in 1984. Rivera was the first Hispanic and first minority chancellor in the UC system. The endowed chair, funded by Rivera’s family and other donors, provides financial support for teaching and research to a senior faculty member. The chair-holder also coordinates the annual Tomás Rivera Conference.