Former University of New Mexico Professor Edward DeSantis had a special way of connecting with students with an impeccable, down-to-earth scholastic approach with an Ivy League demeanor. DeSantis, 78, died peacefully on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
DeSantis, who retired in 2011, was also a former graduate associate dean and faculty senate president. He taught in several different departments over the decades including fine arts, literature, history, music and philosohpy.
Besides his delight in the topics of classes he taught, DeSantis had a greater motivation for why he enjoyed his job so much.
“Teaching can be intoxicating at times,” he said back in Spring 2011 in an interview for the Honors College Alumni Newsletter shortly before his retirement. “It leads you into areas that you would not have explored had you been doing a different kind of job. Teaching is never limited to certain disciplines, [rather] it involves all the disciplines that contribute to new knowledge.
“[My greatest achievement is] staying alive, and enjoying every moment of every day as a precious gift. We have been given so much, we have so much. My greatest achievement was taking what I have and sharing it. We have so many gifts and we have to share them." – Professor Edward DeSantis
“My greatest memory is, year after year, getting to know students who have taught me more than I may have taught them. And, for that, I am eternally grateful to each one. Students make all the difference,” he said. “Students have taught me about their gifts and their talents, which never ceases to amaze me. Students can go through college not tapping into some of their powers, but they can discover them here. I am lucky to be a beneficiary of those occasions. And that’s the truth.”
Colleagues and students across campus have praised him over the years as one of the UNM’s finest educators and scholars inspiring numerous students with his gifted teaching, deep commitment to education, and wise academic and personal counsel.
"Most of us teaching at the University care about the students, but Ed was one of the few faculty members who would stop and take his own time to talk to students one on one," said Honors College Professor Leslie Donovan. "He would go out of his way to interact and find out how individual students were doing and what they cared about. He enjoyed talking to students on a person-to-person basis.
"He always cared about engaging and talking with students and colleagues about talks that were hard and difficult to discuss such as nature of love and the nature of evil. He cared about those subjects. He also knew what it meant to have wit and to be humorous in an elevated, witty sort of way. He was certainly one of the kindest gentlest people I’ve ever met," Donovan added.
- A rosary service will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at French Mortuary, 1111 University Blvd., NE
- Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated Thursday, Sept. 17 at 10 a.m. at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 1818 Coal Pl., SE
- Burial will follow at Fairview Cemetery in Albuquerque
"Professor DeSantis was an exceptional teacher with an incredible talent for teaching," said Steve Carr, a former student who took Medieval Studies from DeSantis in the 80s. "For me, he brought the Middle Ages to life. Professor DeSantis made it fascinating and fun to experience the times through his unique way of presenting the material. His voice had a way of drawing students into the class, almost mesmerizing. I listened intently to every word he said. He was one of my most inspirational professors."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. July 5, 1937, DeSantis was the third son of Michele and Mattia DeSantis. A former Jesuit priest, DeSantis was influenced by his father who was a harpist with the New York City Symphony Orchestra. He possessed his father's love for classical music. Music was a transcendental experience for him. He could name a musical score, or an opera, and its conductor after hearing only a few bars of music. He was also an avid New York baseball fan.
DeSantis married Maria Arancio in 1972 and headed west to teach at the UNM. Together, they adopted a baby son, Tristan, whom he considered to be the greatest gift of his life. When they went their separate ways, Edward and Maria remained united in parenthood and friendship. He also hosted a local-broadcast and popular radio political talk show titled, "Dedicated to the Proposition."
In 1996, Edward married his soulmate, Rosario Hernandez, a distinguished scholar and professor, in her own right, at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico.
De Santis earned advanced degrees at Fordham and Brown University and devoted himself to teaching, academic scholarship, and the pursuit of personal and world peace. He was a protege of the Berrigan brothers and a war protester in the 60s.
He was preceded in death by his parents; and by his brothers, the Rev. Robert DeSantis and Dr. Frank DeSantis. He is survived by his devoted wife, Rosario and her large family, who embraced Edward as their own. He is also survived by his beloved son, Tristan and his wife, Olivia; friends, former students, and colleagues without number.
** Portions of the above story were used from an obituary appearing in the Albuquerque Journal. The quotes from Professor Edward DeSantis were used from the Spring 2011 Honors College Alumni Newsletter.