The Marquette community is mourning the passing of an educator, colleague and friend after Eufemia Sanchez de la Calle, an associate professor of Spanish and resident director of the Marquette en Madrid program, was killed in a car accident Thursday evening in Madrid.
A native of Cáceres, Spain, Sanchez de la Calle, 57, was known by her friends, students and coworkers as “Femy.” She is survived by four brothers and four nieces and nephews, all of whom live in Spain.
Sanchez de la Calle studied in in Salamanca, Spain, and London before completing her Ph.D. in 1990 at Michigan State University. She had been a professor at Marquette since 1990. Her areas of expertise included 20th and 21st century Iberian Peninsula literature, Spanish and Latin American film and theater, and cultural studies of Spain.
Sanchez de la Calle was deeply involved with the Marquette en Madrid study abroad program. She lived in Spain as the resident director and “surrogate mother,” as she was affectionately known, for a total of nine years. She was completing her fifth term as resident director this semester. During the 13 years she spent on campus, Sanchez de la Calle served as a teacher, advisor, colleague and friend to many.
“What I like most is to be in close contact to the students,” Sanchez de la Calle said on the Marquette en Madrid website. “This position (resident director) gives me a wonderful chance to meet many fun and interesting people, and it constantly presents me with challenges, which makes my life very interesting.”
Marquette students and faculty currently participating in the Marquette en Madrid program said they were saddened by the sudden loss of their director and friend.
“The day before the accident, while we were all away on trips, she sent an email to let us know the printer in the Marquette office was working again,” said Brian Keogh, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and one of the 11 students currently in the Marquette en Madrid program. “She loved talking with us in Spanish and showing us Madrid.”
The previous Sunday she had taken the students to a WorkCenter, the Spanish equivalent to Kinkos, where she helped them print and buy their boarding passes for weekend trips around Europe.
“Femy was an inspiration for everyone, especially the students,” said Raquel Aguilu-de-Murphey, an associate professor of Spanish and close friend of Sanchez de la Calle. “When she went to the Madrid program, she was like a mother for the students. She always gave 100 percent or more to the job.”
Paloma Trejo, a 2003 Marquette graduate living in France, recalled Sanchez de la Calle taking her parents, who are from Mexico, shopping around Milwaukee. “She was the kind of person who would let you in her life pretty fast,” Trejo said in an email. “She was a wonderful woman, a wonderful friend, and she definitely was my mentor in many other ways.”
While students, faculty and alumni deal with the loss of a friend, Marquette has tried to keep the student experience in Spain as normal as possible. Anne Pasero, the chair of Marquette’s foreign languages and literatures department, traveled to Madrid over the weekend to support the students studying there. Gail Gilbert, the assistant director of the Office of International Education, said Paloma Cubillo, the assistant program coordinator of Marquette en Madrid, will take over Sanchez de la Calle’s duties for the remainder of the semester.
“We’ll have another Marquette faculty member in the spring start with the program,” Gilbert said.
Grief therapists have been made available to the students studying in Madrid, and the U.S. Embassy has also offered assistance, said Stephanie Russell, vice president for Mission and Ministry, in an email. Campus Ministry, the Counseling Center and the Faber Center for Ignatian Spirituality will also support those who knew Sanchez de la Calle.
“The death of Sanchez de la Calle is a loss to students, both in Milwaukee and Madrid, and to the faculty and staff who were fortunate enough to work with her,” Russell said.
Support meetings have been planned for Wednesday from 4 to 5 p.m. and 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the Office of International Education on the fourth floor of Holthusen Hall. On Thursday, the day of Sanchez de la Calle’s memorial service in Madrid, the Chapel of the Holy Family in the Alumni Memorial Union will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ann Mulgrew, assistant director for Campus Ministry, said a memorial service on campus is planned for a later date.
“We’re all kind of grieving together,” Gilbert said. “This is when it’s nice to be on a campus that is so tight knit and you know everyone cares so much about each other and that we will be able to get through this as a university.”