Brock honours legacy of founding faculty member

Brock is mourning the loss of Juan Amadeo Fernández, who was among the first seven faculty members to teach at the University when it was founded in September 1964. Fernández passed away on Thursday, July 13 in St. Catharines at the age of 92.

The beloved Professor of Spanish is being remembered for his countless contributions in Brock’s formative years, as well as his continued commitment and passion for teaching during his 32 years of service to the University before his retirement in 1996.

Juan Fernandez as an older gentlemen in a black tuxedo with a white floral corsage. He is mid-speech with his arms raised in the air with a kind face set against a white backdrop.

Juan Fernández in more recent years doing what, according to his family, he loved most — speaking with others.

“The entire Brock community was saddened to learn of the passing of lifelong supporter and founding faculty member Juan Fernández recently. While I didn’t have the privilege of knowing him myself, I know that he touched the lives of hundreds of Brock students — starting with those first Badgers who learned in the basement of a church and inside a former refrigeration factory before the University moved into its current campus,” said Lesley Rigg, Brock University’s President and Vice-Chancellor. “It’s not a stretch to say that there wouldn’t be a Brock University today were it not for people like Juan, to whom we owe an immense debt of gratitude.”

With specializations in literatures and cultures, Fernández taught Spanish Literature and was founder and Chair of the Department of Romance Languages — now the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures (MLLC) in the Faculty of Humanities.

MLLC Professor Irene Blayer (BA ’81), then an international student from Azores, Portugal, first crossed paths with Fernández when she enrolled in one of his language courses during her undergraduate years at Brock.

“In my recollections, I hold dear the countless conversations we shared. Our discussions often revolved around the intricacies and comparisons between Portuguese and Spanish, as well as exploring the etymological threads that connected both languages,” Blayer said.

Upon completion of her PhD, Blayer returned to Brock as a faculty member and colleague to Fernández in the Department of Romance Languages. They became close friends, with Blayer treated as part of his family.

She fondly remembers the great joy Fernández would take in preparing his special espresso or in offering a taste of his latest cured ‘jamón ibérico’ (Iberian ham).

A black and white archival photo shows seven Brock University professors dressed in regalia standing shoulder to shoulder in front of a sign that reads “Brock University Administration Office”. The seven men are all smiling standing outside of a brick building with a white fence.

Brock University’s first-ever faculty stand in front of the original Administration Office at 15 Welland Ave. prior to the opening of the Glenridge Campus. From left: Ernest E. Goldsmith, William Ormsby, John Hart, James Gibson, Michael Hornyansky, Juan Amadeo Fernández and Guy Gauthier. The Administration Office was relocated to the Glenridge Campus in October 1964. The University had occupied the Welland Avenue location since May 1963.

“As natives of the Iberian Peninsula, we had a deep understanding of the shared cultural traditions and influences that shaped our respective identities,” Blayer said. “He played a pivotal role as a mentor in my life and, above all, he became a cherished friend.”

Current Chair and Professor in MLLC, Carmela Colella, expressed condolences to Fernández’s family on behalf of the department he championed and established.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Professor Fernández. He is fondly remembered as a true gentleman, exceptional colleague and a tireless contributor to Brock’s early years,” Colella said.

A visitation and service will be held on Monday, July 24 at George Darte Funeral Home at 585 Carleton St. in St. Catharines. The visitation will be held from 11 to 1 p.m. and the service, a ‘Final Tribute for Juan,’ will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. In addition to being held in person, the service will also be streamed online to allow guests to also attend remotely. More details are available on the George Darte Funeral Home website.

Brock University’s flags will be lowered to half-mast in honour of Fernández on Monday, July 24.

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