Iowa State professor inducted into Iowa Latino Hall of Fame


Courtesy of U.S. Latino/a Studies Program

“Life is not just about longevity, I don’t care if live to 100… I live by what experiences do I want in life, and if that is fulfilled, well then go on to the next.”- Hector Avalos, 2016.

Logan Metzger

One Iowa State professor has recently been inducted into an Iowa Hall of Fame.

The Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs (ICLA) celebrated three new Iowa Latino Hall of Fame inductees and two other award recipients at an awards ceremony on Oct. 19.

One of the inductees was Hector Avalos, a professor of philosophy and religious studies.

Avalos said being nominated felt “awesome” and the ceremony was “amazing.”

Avalos is the founder and inaugural director for the first United States Latino/a Studies program which was the first of its kind in Iowa in 1994.

Avalos created the U.S. Latino/a Studies program after he secured his tenure in 1994. He was its chair and director for a total of eleven years.

Before this program was established, there were no ethnic studies programs at Iowa State and nothing that was Latino/a concentrated. Creating this program brought light to the experiences of the Latinx community in Iowa and beyond to a demographic of students that previously would have not been exposed to.

“As my undergraduate professor and advisor, Dr. Avalos challenged me,” said Richard McCarty, associate professor of religious studies and ethics at Mercyhurst University in an ICLA press release. “As a young man, he motivated me to think beyond narrow perspectives. Through graduate school, his teachings stayed with me. As a clergy-person his voice is always in my ear, inspiring me to look beyond convenient claims of orthodoxy. Dr. Hector Avalos has not only changed my life for the better, but I have to believe he has done the same for his many other students, as well as for fellow citizens alike.”

Avalos was born in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico in 1958. At seven years old, he moved to Arizona where he stayed until his early adult life.

He began his college career at his community college, later received his bachelors in anthropology at the University of Arizona, a masters in divinity at Harvard and then a doctorate in Hebrew Bible and Northwest Semitic philology at Harvard. This achievement made him the first Mexican-American to earn a doctorate in biblical studies at Harvard.

Avalos has many accomplishments such as being an Ivy League graduate, writing 10 scholarly books and being a post-doctorate fellow at the University of North Carolina, according to the press release.

He has won several awards while being with Iowa State. These include CLAS Master Teacher Award for 2003 to 2004, CLAS Outstanding Professor Award in 1996 and the Regents Award for Faculty Excellence in 2016.

“[Being inducted] was the climax of over 25 years of work on behalf of Iowa State University and its students,” Avalos said.

The other Iowa Latino Hall of Fame inductees and award recipients include the late Carlos Portes, former special ambassador for Latin American affairs; the late Lando X. Valadez, a notable Latino activist; Lilián Sánchez, the deputy political director for Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign; and Jan Mitchell, teacher and founder of Al Exito, a program empowering Latinos for success through education, leadership and community engagement.

The Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs created the Iowa Latino Hall of Fame in order to recognize and honor Latinos in the Iowa community for their cultural, political, social and economic contributions.

“The goal of the Iowa Latino Hall of Fame is to ensure that the efforts of Iowa’s Latinos are honorably recognized, celebrated and memorialized for future generations,” according to the press release.

These community members have included political and social activists, scientists, educators, writers and spiritual and community leaders.