In Memory of Maria Teresa Velez

It is with great sadness that the Foundation notes the passing of Dr. Maria Teresa Velez, Associate Dean of the Graduate College of the University of Arizona.  Dr. Velez was a longtime grantee of the Foundation and an important and influential figure in the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership.  We echo the sentiments of Ted Greenwood, the Sloan program director who oversaw the creation of the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership and worked closely with Dr. Velez for a decade, when he writes:

Maria Teresa Velez (MT to her friends) was a remarkable woman. Having overcome much in her personal life, she drew on her own experience as a source of empathy for others and as motivation for improving others' lives. MT was a transformative force at the University of Arizona. Hundreds if not thousands of current and former UA students owe their opportunities and their success to her. She initiated many of UA's student support programs and, as a result, made UA a better place. MT was an architect of the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership that has provided and continues to provide graduate opportunities in mathematics, science and engineering to American Indians and Alaskan Natives across the country. She ran the most successful center within that program and provided ongoing leadership that was decisive at many turns. She will be missed by many but her legacy will live on.

Shortly before Dr. Velez’s passing, President Paul L. Joskow and Program Director Elizabeth S. Boylan signed a formal proclamation in honor of her life and work:

On behalf of its staff and Trustees, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation issues this proclamation in honor of the work and achievements of Dr. Maria Teresa Velez, Associate Dean of the Graduate College at the University of Arizona.

Since 2003, Dr. Velez has worked tirelessly and effectively to develop and advance the goals of the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership. She has worked to open the doors of opportunity to Native American students, to support their ambitions, and to celebrate with them the earning of their graduate degrees. The enthusiasm and tenacity she brought to her work were wonders to behold, energizing others to go an extra mile and to care as deeply as she did.

The organizations and institutions she has helped build, both at the University of Arizona and beyond, are a lasting testament to her influence, her imagination, and her insight. We are especially proud that our partner, the National Action Council of Minorities in Engineering, awarded her its Diversity Vision Award in 2012; so well deserved.

For her extraordinary contributions toward improving the quality of graduate education of Native American students, Dr. Velez has the Foundation’s respect, its affection, and its heartfelt gratitude.

Dr. Velez will be remembered for her scholarship, for her exemplary service as dean, and for her leadership in making the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership what it is today.  Her most lasting legacy, however, lies in the lives of the students she touched. Dakota Rose Isaacs, a Native American master’s candidate in geophysics at the University of Arizona, wrote us on the occasion of Dr. Velez’s passing.

Growing up, I knew that people like me did not graduate from college, let alone graduate school… But someone gave me a chance.  A chance to spend grueling hours reaching my full potential, a chance to prove to myself that I deserved more, and a chance to earn my seat at the scientific community table.  The Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership has allowed me to make life-changing opportunities for myself here, at the University of Arizona, that will not only affect me, but will help my family and future generations to live a good quality, fulfilling life.  Thank you Dr. Maria Teresa Velez.  Pilamaya.

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