The MEXICO CITY COLLEGE Story: The History: 1940 - 1963
Early in the 1960s it was decided to seek a new campus for the University. The reason for this decision is not known. (Possibly, with the ’68 Olympics on the horizon, the appreciation for the Carretera Mexico-Toluca property presented a means of putting the University’s finances well into the black. Also, major outside funding was potentially available at the time.)
A site selection committee was established which included Peter Stuart, an early 1950s alumnus of MCC and a Foreign Service officer in the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. Government, as part of its foreign aid program, had decided to make a two-million dollar grant to the University and Peter Stuart “had the pleasure of working with [his] old professors as they explored various alternate sites. [He] jokingly told the Dean of the School of Business that there were not too many of the alumni who had been successful enough to make a two-million dollar gift to the school.”8
In "November, 1963, discussions began with Bruno Pagliai (husband of the late British and American actress Merle Oberon) concerning the donation of property in Lomas Verdes (reported as "by a group of Mexican and Italian industrialists") on which to build a new campus. In July, 1964, it was announced that the new campus would be built in Lomas Verde,"9 dependent upon sufficient financing. Lomas Verde is located 7 miles NW of Mexico City, on the road to Ciudad Satelite (which has since grown so much that Ciudad Satelite is no longer a "satelite" to Mexico City.)
A concentrated campaign to raise funds for the UA Development Fund was initiated. (See Note K for a list of the donations of record.)
Dr. Ray Lindley met with Don Manuel Espinosa Iglesias in September, 1965, to ask for a donation from the Mary Street Foundation.Note D Don Manuel countered by offering to give the Colegio Americano de Puebla to the University. (The Colegio Americano de Puebla, founded as a secondary school in Puebla in 1943 by Mrs. Anne Jenkins Buntzler, sister of William O. Jenkins, to teach English as a second language.) Five months later the Mary Street Foundation approved, and the University accepted, the donation of The Colegio to the University of the Americas. (In May, 1970, the University transferred Colegio Americano to the American School Foundation.9 It is not known if any money was involved in the transfer.)
Again, Dr. Ray Lindley met with Don Manuel Espinosa Iglesias on July 19, 1966 to ask for a $8,000 donation from the Mary Street Foundation. It was at this meeting that Espinosa Iglesias inquired into having the University build and administer an Instituto Tecnológico de Puebla, in Puebla. Lomas Verde as a future campus site was immediately moved to the back burner. Dr. Ray Lindley met with Fulton Freeman, American Ambassador in México, regarding the building of a new campus in Puebla rather than in Lomas Verde: "Would the Agency for International Development continue its support?"9
Following a series of positive meetings with, among others, Agustin Yañez, the Minister of Education, and the Rector of the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Ing. García Roel, the Board of Trustees assembled to discuss the move to Puebla. Don Manuel Iglesias was in attendence to explain that the Mary Street Foundation would pay one-half the cost up to 5 million dollars. A week later, on October 26, 1966, the Board approved the move to Puebla by a margin of 17 to 1 (John Sevier). In January 25, 1967, two new members of the Board of Trustees took office: William D. Jenkins, Jr. and Dr. Sergio B. Guzmán. Two days later the University of the Americas publicly announced it will move to a new campus in Cholula, Puebla.9
Sixty-Six hectares (163 acres) of land on the site of the old hacienda de Santa Catarina Martir (5 miles from the state capital, Puebla) was purchased from Maximino Avila Camacho. Seven pesos per square meter was paid.9 Currently (2005) the Publa campus consists of 180 acres.
The first stone was laid on the Cholula land on June 4, 1967; actual construction started early January, 1968,9 the same year the school’s name was changed from the University of the Américas to the Universidad de las Américas, and the Summer Olympics were held in Mexico City. The actual move was scheduled for the fall of 1969, and the inauguration held in 1970.
The last graduation ceremony (for 106 graduates) on the km.16 campus was held in the theatre on May 29, 1970. James Farmer, Assistant Secretary for Administration of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, was the commencement speaker. The last issue of The Collegian on the km. 16 campus was published (and, as Professor Ed Simmen recently remarked, "We have never had a newspaper like that since"). On June 4 the doors to the Mexico City campus were officially closed.9
In March, 1970, a contract was signed to sell the km. 16 campus to the International University of the United States (formerly California Western University) for 7 million pesos.9 The Carretera Mexico-Toluca campus site is now the site of “CIDE,” Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, A.C. (http://www.cide.edu/presentacion.html)
Registration on the new campus in Cholula was held on June 19, 1970. For the first time since 1942, beginning Mexican students during the following Fall semester out numbered North American freshman.
This soon became important, because financing through the U.S. Government's AID program had to be spent only on ASHA projects (American Schools and Hospitals Abroad.) On July 1, 1971, Jess Dalton, Board President, Dr. Ray Lindley, and Manuel Espinoza Iglesias met in Washington with senators and congressmen regarding further financial assistance from the U.S. Government. Five months later AID donated $5,000,000.00.9 U.S. AID grants continued after this date: President Dr. Nora Lustig (September, 2001- May,2005), in her farewell speech of December, 2005, Note M she notes “the (June, 2004) generous contributions from the U.S. Agency for International Development.” She also notes the modification of the institution’s legal contracts “to have access to external funds from USAID as well as other sources.”
In her farewell speech, Dr. Lustig rightfully reflected on UDLAP as “one of the most prestigious private universities in Mexico and is internationally recognized as such.” UDLAP has been ranked “the third best Mexican university by COPAES (Higher Education Accrediting Board) and CIEES (Inter-institutional Committee for the Evaluation of Higher Education) for its high academic standards.” Note M for more details on the academic structure
After relocating in Puebla, in late 1985 “a handful of deans and faculty of the Universidad de las Américas in Puebla renounced their positions and created the Universidad de las Américas, A.C. (UDLA, A.C.) in Mexico City,” at Avenida Puebla 223, Col. Roma. (Also see last paragraph in Note D.)
“While it was a matter of huge controversy, this new university took the same name and the coat of arms [representative] of the Puebla institution (even though they created a new coat of arms recently), and [at the time claimed] to be successor of Mexico City College (in fact they added that title to their new coat of arms). Thus, both the Distrito Federal (DF) campus (UDLA, A.C.) and UDLA-Puebla campus laid claim to MCC as their founding institution.”
After the split, the Puebla institution “officially registered itself as the Fundacion Universidad de las Americas, Puebla” (UDLAP), mainly to distinguish itself from the new university in Mexico City. UDLAP is the university that still belongs to SACS and the one that is ranked among the top five universities in Mexico, not the UDLA, A.C.” 14
A UDLAP professor says, “[we] have absolutely no connection with that school, except for the fact that we share the first 45 years of existence.”9 And a former Board member of UDLA, A.C., adds, “It was a nasty split with much animosity.”
So, in spite of a common origin, the Universidad de las Américas, A.C. (http://www.udla.mx/2003/directorio.html), located in Col. Roma, Mexico, DF, should not be confused with the Puebla institution. There is considerable difference in the size of the two Institutions, in the physical plant, the student and faculty, and endowment.
The DF institution enrollment for 91-92 was 1,369, “mostly part time;” UDLAP enrollment for the same year “was 6,000 plus.” It uses a similar logo as the UDLAP institution. Their web site states: “The Universidad de las Américas, A.C., was founded in 1940 as Mexico City Junior College (MCC). In the next twenty-seven years its name changed, first as the University of the Américas, and later the Universidad de las Américas, A.C. (associatión civil).” Ten years later, in 2003, the student enrollment was 1,696; total faculty was 185 (36 full time).
On the other hand, in 2004, the UDLA-Puebla total students exceeded 8,000, with 1,647 new students admitted; with 250 being international students (students from the U.S. comprising a “small minority”). Total faculty was 763; 44% full time. Twenty percent belong to the National System of Researchers (SNI). UDLAP offers a Study Abroad Program at 182 universities in 29 countries2 including an unusual internship with the U.S. Congress. Note E
There is some question that many of the old Mexico City College crowd do not know to which university they are an alumnus. Numerous correspondence from 1996 to 2006) with the DF campus (from the president on down) by the author seeking alumni information was met with no response.
However, correspondence by the author over several years with the Puebla campus did result in several responses (“Thank you for calling this matter to our attention. We will look into it.“), but no substantial action was ever taken. Part of the reason could be that “until recent years, the Puebla campus never recognized . . . the association with Mexico City College. Now (02/22/05), they do” 11. . . thanks to two fortuitous and coinciding events:
An MCC alumnus entered into direct correspondence with the then Rectora, Dra. Nora Lustig, in September, 2002. And, by happy coincidence, since taking office as Rectora in 2001, it has been Dra. Nora Lustig’s personal “quest to do everything in our power to re-establish contact with our alumni from (the MCC) era. The letter you received from Sergio Diaz, who is in charge of our alumni office, is precisely the result of this initiative.”15 The MCC alumnus’ inquiry gave Dra. Lustig a renewed interest as President to pursue her desire to promote UDLAP early history and alumni. Soon after, Sergio Diaz, UDLAP exalumnos director, contacted the MCC alumnus “to discuss ways to facilitate MCC alumni's participation in the UDLAP's exalumno program and to outline his ideas.
“Diaz (said he) is planning a special MCC section within the UDLAP exalumno site (http://www.udlap.mx/alumni/mcc/ ) and (has included) a hyperlink within the UDLAP/MCC section to our MCC club.”6 (See Post No. 342 at the Mexico City College Club site: http://mx.groups.yahoo.com/group/mexicocitycollege)
This Mexico City College alumni club site was founded by Dr. Mike Porath (M.C.C. 1959, BA; Ph.D. Anthropology, U. of NM) on September 1, 2000, and is located at: http://mx.groups.yahoo.com/group/mexicocitycollege
Alumnus Sam Ormes (MCC, 1960) has also set up a “backup” MCC site in case the main site crashes, located at: http://mx.groups.yahoo.com/group/km16/
As of February, 2006, this MCC internet Club had 51 members, most of them MCC graduates and former students from the ‘50s and early ‘60s. MCC history from an alumni perspective can be found throughout the many postings, now numbering over 1,200, along with former students’ remembrances of faculty: Dr. Martinez del Rio with his spats, Homburg and umbrella, (Mexican history from the man who rode with Pancho Villa into Columbus, NM, 1916); Professor Robins (AKA “the Hemingway of Mexico”); Professor Fernando Horcasitas (AKA “the white god of the Mexican anthropologists”), to name a few. Richard Wilkie in his highly descriptive "Dangerous Journeys: Mexico City College Students and the Mexican Landscape, 1954-1962,"16 also recalls the more memorable professors.
La Mosca (AKA the “Fly Trap,”) a Mexican-run beer and pulque garden and cafe was located across the street from the school. It was here that many students, including Dean Elmendorf, enjoyed their beer, and one alumnus recalls asking “Virginia’s hand in marriage,” with “a breathtaking view of the barranca, Mexico City, and the volcanoes” Popocatepetl and Ixtacihuatl in the distant landscape.
Many have agreed that the education received at MCC prepared them well for their subsequent careers. As archaeology professor Oriol Pi-Sunyer (MCC, 1954, University of Massachusetts-Amherst) recalls, his years in Mexico were “the best thing that ever happened to me experientially, intellectually and academically.”
MCC served well, and gave birth to a highly prestigious institution. UDLAP recognizes MCC and its contributions and has named a building after Drs. Murray and Cain. Dr. Murray’s son, Paul V. Murray, Jr., Ph.D., and his two sisters, were invited precisely as guests to the Dedication (March 1, 1998). As Paul Murray wrote, “The Inauguration was truly a supreme and far reaching gesture by UDLAP in recognition of its heritage (that) . . . honored his father’s vision.” Note F
“Having the chance to live and study in Mexico City was adventure enough, but when all the natural and human landscapes of southern and central Mexico became part of the experiental classroom, the education that each of us received went far beyond anything most of us had anticipated.”16
“Mexico City College provided its students with a dynamic setting for intellectual and personal growth, and it was a place that offered unimaginable opportunities for exploration, discovery, adventure and creativity. The Mexican experience exposed its students, representing over 20 countries, to new ways to view their own countries. Life in Mexico helped all of us to develop a feeling for diversity and a belief that because of it life can be richer and more meaningful.” – Dr. R.W. Wilkie, MCC, class of ’59.16
Selected References and Important Notes:
1. “Yankee College in Mexico,” L.R. Hayman. Américas 5:21-3 (May, 1953); The MCC Collegian, May 9, 1951.
2. Merle Kling, “M.C.C., An Informal Report.” College and University. V. 33, No. 3:257-72. (Spring, 1958.)
3. L.A. Larew (sp?). “American Schools are Thriving in Mexico,” Hispania, 63:91-93. (March, 1980.)
4. Joe Nash, “Murray Would Be In Seventh Heaven, El Universal, Sept., 1998.
5. “Beards & Sandals go.” Times Educational Supplement. 2511:8, (July 5, 1963).
6. Source insists upon anonymity, in private email dated 3/6/2006.
7. “Yankee University in Mexico,” Randolph Wolfe, Holiday, July, 1968.
8. Peter Tristan Stuart, former MCC alumnus and employee of the U.S. Embassy. See http://mx.groups.yahoo.com/group/mexicocitycollege/message Post No. 112 and/or http://westwood.fortunecity.com/susileib/60/pete18.htm (Chapter 19).
9. Professor Edward Simmen, Docente-Investigador, Deptos. De Lenguas y Literatura. UDLAP. Various correspondence.
10. “The Death of Joan V. Burroughs,” James W. Grauerholz, American Studies Dept., Univ. of Kansas, January 7, 2002 (Note B) \http://old.lawrence.com/burroughs/deathofjoan-full.pdf. (p. 42).
11. Earl R. Votaw (MCC,’52) February 22, 2005, correspondence.
12. Adapted from the Home page of http://mx.groups.yahoo.com/group/udlapueblamexico/?yguid=11149852 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico_City_College
13 http://mx.groups.yahoo.com/group/mexicocitycollege/message%20%20Posts%20No.%201003,%201209, (Post No. 1218)
14. J. Alonso. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Fundaci%C3%B3n_Universidad_de_las_Am%C3%A9ricas%2C_Puebla.
15. http://mx.groups.yahoo.com/group/mexicocitycollege/message, (Post No. 328).
16. Richard W. Wilkie (MCC, 1959, Professor of Geography, University of Massachusetts-Amherst), “Dangerous Journeys: Mexico City College Students and the Mexican Landscape,” Adventures Into Mexico: American Tourism Beyond the Border. Ed Niholas Dagen Bloom (Rowman & Littlefield Pub, Inc., 2006.)
17. One of many notable alumnus (’52) is Sra. Helen Escobedo. As related by Prof. Edward Simmen in a 1983 interview with Sra. Escobedo, at age 15 she approached Professor Wacher in 1950 and stated, “Buenas tardes. Soy Helen Escobedo y deseo estudiar arte.” Wacher’s response, “Let’s see what we can do for you.” Ms. Escobedo went on to establish an international reputation and served (1982-84) as the temporary Director for the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City.
18. Herschel Brickell, “Writers’ Workshop,” Americas, Jan. 1952. p.19.
19. Crawford Kilian, unpublished memoir, "Growing up Blacklisted," 1990, as quoted by Diana Anhalt, "Bridging the Culture Gap, from A Gathering of Fugitives," Adventures Into Mexico: American Tourism Beyond the Border. ed. Nicholas D. Bloom (Rowman & Littlefield Pub, Inc., 2006) p. 156. See 16, above.
The life of Cold-war repatriates, the Hollywood Blacklist, and international refugees in Mexico City is also well covered by Diana Anhalt’s first-hand account, A Gathering of Fugitives: American Political Expatriates in Mexico 1948-1965. (Archer Books, 2001.) This account was excerpted in "Bridging The Culture Gap," ibid.
20. "The MCC Collegian," June 8, 1961
21. The First 20 Years: 1940-1960, published by Mexico City College, 1960, as a 26-page prospectus to raise funds for future expansion. This pamphlet can be viewed at http://catarina.udlap.mx:9090/u_dl_a/citext/mcc/index.html
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