Gerardo Gonzalez, the briefcase, and the University Archives

Earlier this summer whilst attending a “Lunch & Learn” hosted by the Office of the Bicentennial, I had the pleasure of meeting Gerardo Gonzalez, Dean Emeritus of the IU Bloomington School of Education (2000-2015). He mentioned that he had a memoir coming out later this year and he had some related family papers. They needed a permanent secure home – was the Archives interested?

Gerardo Gonzalez, 2014
Gerardo Gonzalez, 2014. IU Communications

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know that we collect quite broadly to document Indiana University and the people affiliated with the institution. But for those that may not or just for further information on our processes – indeed, the mission of the IU Libraries University Archives is to collect, preserve and make available university records of enduring value (as I tell classes, that is clearly something I have written down somewhere and have repeated several times, ha!). In pursuit of that mission, we focus on collecting records created and collected by IU Bloomington offices, departments, centers, institutes, as well as any campus offices with system-wide responsibilities. In addition, we seek out the records of student, faculty, and staff organizations. But we also extend our collecting priorities to the personal papers of IUB faculty, staff, and alumni. With these papers, we have areas of focus within each and they all tend to be on those materials that reflect their time at the university. But we also sometimes choose to go beyond that so that in the end, we have a collection that paints a fuller picture of the creator and his or her life.

So my answer to Dr. Gonzalez was an immediate affirmation. The papers he offered were very precious to him, as they were all related to his family’s emigration from Cuba to the United States shortly after Fidel Castro took power. Just a child at the time, Dr. Gonzalez only learned of the existence of the surviving telegrams, correspondence, plane tickets, etc. many years later when his father presented them in the briefcase in which they had been housed for safekeeping over the years.

This is the first telegram sent to Dr. Gonzalez’s parents. It threw them into a panic, as they had requested permission for their family of four to emigrate; this telegram instructed Gerardo’s younger sister – only 5 years old – to report to Havana for departure to the United States. Only Martiza. Nonetheless, his father began to explore possibilities so that at least Martiza could leave. Much to the family’s relief, later that same day they received a telegram that granted permission for their whole family to leave. In two days. IU Archives Collection C694

And now, we are responsible for their safekeeping, and they will allow us to tell a fuller, richer story of one of Indiana University’s most respected administrators and educators who began his life in the United States a shy, frightened refugee.

Gerardo Gonzalez, 1956. IU Archives P0082433

A finding aid for Dr. Gonzalez’s papers can be found on ArchivesOnlineIf you would like to view the collection, contact an archivist but note that we have fully digitized the small collection – click on the small cameras next to each item – as well as a few of the photographs! In addition to that, Dr. Gonzalez’s memoir, A Cuban Refugee’s Journey to the American Dream: The Power of Education, is now available through the IU Press! I just received my own copy, a gift from the author (thank you, Dr. Gonzalez!) yesterday, and I look forward to learning more about his journey.