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Sentimental Journey

Giving News

Tita Valencia and Miguel Gonzalez-Gerth

Gifts to Ransom Center honor loved ones, ‘visionary’ former president and chancellor

By Angela Curtis

Time and again, Miguel Gonzalez-Gerth has given to The University of Texas at Austin, his alma mater and former employer. But don’t call him a philanthropist. The retired Romance languages professor prefers a different label.

“I’m a sentimentalist,” he said. “The gifts are given in somebody else’s name, not mine.”

His gifts to UT, in honor of his late wife and parents, are all to the Harry Ransom Center. The late university president and UT System chancellor who founded the renowned humanities research center was Gonzalez-Gerth’s teacher, mentor, and friend.

“He made such an impact on me as a student and later when I came back as a faculty member,” said Gonzalez-Gerth, who taught at UT from 1965–2006. “He was a visionary.”

Ransom’s vision? “Culture and education in the broadest sense,” Gonzalez-Gerth said. “It took the form of a library. That’s where the Ransom Center started.”

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Gonzalez-Gerth has given several outright gifts to the Ransom Center and has multiple future gifts in place, too. One of his planned gifts will create a fund for the Ransom Center’s director in the name of Betty Brumbalow, his first wife. One of his outright gifts created the Betty Brumbalow Green Room in the Ransom Center. Another was a series of bronze sculptures that belonged to his parents.

Gonzalez-Gerth first met Ransom in the late 1940s when he was an undergraduate hoping to get into then-Professor Ransom’s graduate seminar on Robert Browning. He asked Ransom to make an exception and let him attend the seminar usually reserved for graduate students. Ransom said yes, even promising he’d make sure Gonzalez-Gerth received credit for the course once he became a grad student himself.

Miguel Gonzalez-GerthGonzalez-Gerth, an author, essayist, and poet, credits Ransom with teaching him how to approach literature and how to value words.

“His turn of phrase was exquisite,” Gonzalez-Gerth said.

“I think after all these years Miguel wanted to reciprocate the world Harry Ransom opened for him,” said Gonzalez-Gerth’s current wife, Tita Valencia.

The pair wed in 1994, 11 years after Brumbalow’s death. Valencia, a writer who has published several books in Spanish, wholeheartedly approves of her husband’s generosity to the Ransom Center.

“The exhibits are so well documented, so well done,” she said. “Every piece is a masterpiece in a way.”

These days Gonzalez-Gerth and Valencia divide their time between homes in Austin and their native Mexico City. Gonzalez-Gerth continues to write and is working on a collection of short stories.

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