Elpidio Laguna Díaz
Elpidio Laguna Díaz, 70, emeritus professor of Spanish and former chair, Department of Classical and Modern Languages, Newark College of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University–Newark, passed away on January 25, 2016, at his South Carolina home. Services, cremation, and interment occurred on January 28 in Johns Island, S.C.
Laguna Díaz was distinguished by his dedication to the teaching of Spanish Medieval, Golden Age, and 19th- and 20th-century Spanish Peninsular literature.
Born in Rio Piedrras, Puerto Rico, he received a B.A. from the University of Puerto Rico, with a degree in philosophy and French, an M.A. from St. John’s University and a Ph.D. from the Graduate Center, City University of New York, in Hispanic studies.
Laguna Díaz joined the Rutgers–Newark faculty in 1972. In 1979, he added an interdisciplinary Spanish concentration, the Hispanic Civilization and Language Studies Program, later renamed the Iberian and Ibero American major. From 1980 to 1994, he directed numerous papers for the honors program.
From 1992–1998, he chaired the Department of Classical and Modern Languages, during which time he initiated the first agreement with the Instituto Camões and began preparing the way for the current Portuguese and Lusophone Studies Program by supporting and promoting the teaching of Portuguese and cultural programming on Portugal, Luso American, and Brazilian topics.
At Rutgers, Laguna Díaz served on numerous committees, contributed to the establishment of student organizations (including the Portuguese American Club in the late 1980s), served as adviser to many others (including the Spanish Club, FELA, PRO, LUNA, PASO), and mentored and accompanied the first students participating at the Organization of American States Model Assembly (1988) in Washington, D.C.
Twice, Laguna Díaz directed the Summer Study Abroad Program in Salamanca. He served as codirector of the Azores Archaeological Project in 2000 and supported, participated in, or codirected several conferences, including the first International Conference on the Dominican Republic and the 30th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations.
He served as vice president of the International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations (1998–2004) and had been a member of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and the Real Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua (New York).
He was widely published and was currently involved in the writing of three long-term projects—Isidore of Seville and the Monstrous Races, Isidore of Seville and the emergence of medieval Christian monarchy, and his project on Spanish civilization.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, Rutgers–Newark, Conklin Hall, Newark, N.J., 07102, for the creation of a Laguna Study Abroad Award.
He is survived by his wife, Asela Rodrigez Seda; three daughters, Asela Maria, Maria Eugenia, and Alexandra Maria; their spouses, Emilio Mourao, Mark Graham, and Richard Del Rio; a sister, Maria Laguna; a brother, Arturo Laguna Diaz, and seven grandchildren.
For more information, please visit: