Endowed scholarship established in memory of Professor José Escarpanter
Ari Gutman and Stacey Powell, both former students of Spanish professor José Escarpanter and current members of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures, established an endowed scholarship award in the name of their former mentor and friend. The José A. (Pepe) Escarpanter Endowment will be paired with a Spirit of Auburn Scholarship and/or Academic Scholarship and will provide four-year renewable scholarships for incoming freshmen who are SPanish or Spanish-International trade majors who have demonstrated academic achievement through high school GPA or standardized test scores.
José Antonio (Pepe) Escarpanter was born on January 17, 1933 in Havana, Cuba. He completed his PhD at the University of Havana in 1957 with a specialization in twentieth-century Cuban theater, and served as a professor there until 1965. He moved to Spain in 1970, and for 11 years, he taught classes and directed study abroad programs in Madrid for institutions in Spain and the United States (including Auburn University). In 1982, Escarpanter was hired by Auburn where he advanced to the rank of full professor in 1990 and stayed until his retirement as professor emeritus in 2001. Throughout his professional career, Pepe Escarpanter was a dedicated author and student of Cuban theater in exile. His passion for theater of all kinds and broad knowledge of world theater enabled him to highlight relationships, influences, and nuances seldom seen in other critical works on the topic. In 2005 he was honored with the Premio René Ariza by the Instituto Cultural René Ariza for his lifetime of contribution to the enrichment of the study of Cuban theater.
To his undergraduate students at Auburn, however, he was just Don Pepe: a funny little Cuban who spoke English with a thick accent and had a way of making everyone in the class feel at ease. He had nicknames for students. Sometimes they came from a play or a song, or maybe a pun on the name, but frequently it was just "lost in the forest girl number one." He was the kind of professor who made students want to make it to that 8 am class. Spanish composition and grammar were somehow fun and learning another language seemed possible. Don Pepe inspired countless students to become Spanish majors, study abroad, discover the world of theater, appreciate the plight of Cuban artists in exile, begin graduate studies, and aspire to careers they never dreamed existed. Outside the classroom, he was a mentor, advisor, colleague, friend, confidant, and source of encouragement and joy. He opened his office and frequently his home to those students who showed that spark of curiosity, thirst for knowledge, and sometimes just a desperate need for direction.
When José A. (Pepe) Escarpanter passed away on May 30, 2011, he left behind his beloved wife Gina, a rich legacy of scholarship, and hundreds of former students who are better for having had the good fortune to pass through his classroom door. This endowed scholarship will allow future generations of Auburn students the opportunity to experience the language and culture that Don Pepe loved, as well as the means to pursue their passions and dreams, while giving former students, colleagues, and friends a tangible way to express our eternal gratitude for Don Pepe's ongoing influence upon ours.