Theo Crevenna, photo courtesy of Albuquerque Business First
Theo Crevenna, photo courtesy of Albuquerque Business First
Theo Crevenna, special adviser to the Latin American & Iberian Institute, died Monday, June 24 at the age of 93. A memorial service is set for Wednesday, July 10 at 10 a.m. in the UNM Alumni Memorial Chapel. A reception will follow at the LAII, located at 801 Yale NE on the UNM campus.

Susan Tiano, LAII director, offered this tribute:

We are grateful to Theo for all he contributed over the years to promote Latin American education and scholarship at UNM and beyond.

Theo R. Crevenna, an alumnus of the University of New Mexico and an enduring friend of the Latin American & Iberian Institute (LAII), passed away on June 24, 2013. His extensive career in service and research has left a permanent and far-reaching impact upon the LAII, the University of New Mexico (UNM), and the broader field of international relations between the United States and Latin America.

Crevenna was born in Frankfurt, Germany, in May, 1920. In 1934, Crevenna and his family moved to Switzerland to escape from the Nazi regime. In Switzerland, Crevenna “and his parents helped Jewish families leave the country, and Crevenna belonged to a student group that studied ways to remove Hitler from power” (Diplomat and Academic Patriarch) While in Switzerland, Crevenna graduated from the Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz, a private preparatory high school, in 1939.

Shortly thereafter, Crevenna traveled to the United States where in 1942 he earned a B.A. in sociology and in 1945 an M.A. in inter-American affairs, both from UNM. Following the completion of his studies, Crevenna began a distinguished career in inter-American affairs. From 1946-1978, Crevenna served as a high-ranking representative of the Organization of American States (OAS), where he acted as deputy director of the Department of Cultural Affairs, deputy director of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and Director of the Office of Fellowships and Training (Honorary Mention).

During the more than three decades that Crevenna served as an OAS representative and diplomat, he “met with the presidents or cabinet ministers of nearly every Latin American country at one time or another” and “was one of the last regional diplomats to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with the iconic Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara during an Organization of American States assembly in Uruguay in 1961” (Diplomat and Academic Patriarch).

While still serving with the OAS, Crevenna was also involved in the founding of the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies (RMCLAS) in 1954. RMCLAS, one of the oldest Latin American academic organizations in the world, began at UNM under Crevenna’s leadership. The council continues today, having celebrated its 60th Annual Conference April 3-6, 2013.

In 1979 Crevenna returned to UNM, where he served his alma mater as Deputy Director of the LAII from 1979 to 2004 and special advisor to UNM’s Vice President for Research and Economic Development from 2006 to 2008. During his career at UNM, Crevenna “helped forge a modern era of social, economic and cultural ties between New Mexico” and Latin America (Diplomat and Patriarch).

In 2004, Crevenna was honored with special recognition from the OAS, together with the Inter-American Organization for Higher Education (OUI), when he was recognized for his “60 years of dedication to the socio-educational, economic, scientific and cultural development of the Americas.” Presented at the XIV Special General Assembly of ISTEC, the award recognized Crevenna’s “strategic role in strengthening relations between the UNM and the OAS through inter-institutional agreements that…allowed for a wide range of programs, projects, and activities related to scientific, technological, educational, and cultural matters, as well as a scholarship and professional training programs. In addition, in 2000, Crevenna, together with other colleagues from UNM and ISTEC, played an important role in creating strategies to promote human resources through new information and communication technologies for distance education. The Educational Portal of the Americas, the Institute of Advanced Studies for the Americans (INEAM) and its regional academic center in UNM were created as a result. (Honorary Mention).

In an interview in 2009, Crevenna reflected upon his career and said, “I’m especially happy to have worked on programs to improve quality of life, particularly for Hispanic and Latin American communities. My life has been devoted to that. I’m still working on it today” (Diplomat and Academic Patriarch). The statement held true throughout his life, with Crevenna continuing to collaborate with the LAII and RMCLAS through May, 2013.

Details concerning a memorial service are pending. Contact the LAII at (505) 277-2961 for more information.

Media Contact: Carolyn Gonzales (505) 277-5920; email: cgonzal@unm.edu