The Lobo community is mourning the loss of an esteemed professor, author and family man.
Mario Rivera passed away Dec. 22, 2017. He was born in Havana, Cuba in 1947 and emigrated to the United States in 1958 where he received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and held a doctorate and master’s degree in political science and public policy from the University of Notre Dame.
He worked as a regents’ professor at the School of Public Administration at the University of New Mexico since 1993 and was the interim director of SPA from 2014 to 2015. Recently, he was elected as a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration for “sustained and outstanding contribution to the field of public administration through public service and scholarship,” his wife Ana Rivera said.
Among his many appointments, awards, honors and service activities, he was a chair on numerous committees including the Diversity Council, led the SPA reaccreditation and was a recipient of the 2015 UNM Division for Equity and Inclusion’s Luminaria Faculty Award, she said. He also served as a consultant for many programs that focused on supporting underrepresented students and young people to overcome social and educational barriers.
Bruce J. Perlman, who was one of Mario’s colleagues and also a regents’ professor, worked with him for 25 years and became good friends with him. When Mario passed away, the two were working on an edited volume in honor of Feral Heady, a former UNM president who passed away a few years ago.
Perlman has plans to continue their work honoring Heady, stating that he thinks one of the reasons Mario came to UNM was because of Heady. Outside of work, the two traveled to Mexico and El Salvador.
He said one thing about Mario that not everyone might know and that he prized greatly was Mario’s great sense of humor — he recalls the two always laughing about politics and the ironies of academic life and his ability to always have a ready quip or joke.
Apart from his extensive work in education, both Perlman and the Rivera family remember Mario as an avid family man.
He met Ana in Washington D.C., she said. They were married in Peru in 1987 and had three daughters together, Alyssa, Sara and Gabriella, all of whom studied or continue to study at UNM.
Perlman said he and Mario knew each other since their daughters were little and that Mario frequently spoke to him about his children.
Mario’s passion for education did not stop at the University.
His daughters said they will remember him for the lessons he taught them and his endless support of their dreams and education.
“My dad was an educator in every regard,” said Gabriella, who is also a Daily Lobo news reporter. “From his work as a professor at multiple institutions, to teaching us to read long before our formal education, to the innumerable life lessons he taught us by example throughout our lives.”
He shared his love for literature with his daughters, often gifting them stacks of books for Christmas, his daughters said. Even after family breakfast at different favorite cafes, the daughters would pick out a pile of books at Page One Books and would eventually narrow it down to two or three.
A fond memory for the daughters, they said, will always be the time they wrote a children’s book with him called Prince Pegasus — he even illustrated the character himself.
Mario was a professor, father, husband and more. He will be remembered by family and friends as an avid reader and caring educator.
Nichole Harwood is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She primarily covers alumni and art features. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Nolidoli1.
Madison Spratto is a news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.