UM Libraries gets first endowed faculty chair

n anonymous gift of $1.5 million has allowed the University of Miami Libraries to endow its first faculty chair. The Esperanza Bravo de Varona Chair is named for the current head of UM’s Cuban Heritage Collection (CHC) and is held by de Varona herself.

De Varona has worked at UM for 37 years as a faculty member and librarian, playing a key role in the CHC’s development, as well as in securing the collection’s new home, the Roberto C. Goizueta Pavilion.

“This is a great honor that Esperanza deserves, and we’re happy to see her receive the recognition she has earned,” says UM President Donna E. Shalala.

De Varona’s UM career began shortly after she arrived in South Florida as a political exile. She was appointed curator of Cuban archives in 1980, when the Richter Library’s Cuba-related materials were part of its Archives and Special Collections section. When the Cuban Heritage Collection was established in 1998, de Varona was appointed director.

During her tenure as the collection’s head, she has overseen tremendous growth in its holdings. Today, the collection consists of thousands of books, periodicals, and archival materials spanning more than 400 years.

A graduate of the University of Havana with a master’s degree in library sciences from Florida State University, de Varona has served as a founding member and past president of the Society of Florida Archivists and has been appointed as a member of the State Historical Records Advisory Board by three Florida governors.

Among her numerous honors: de Varona has received the 2004 Award of Excellence from the Society of Florida Archivists, as well as awards from the Cuban American National Council and FACE (Facts about Cuban Exiles).