Commentary: In memory of Roberto Erquiaga

The late Professor Roberto Erquiaga (center) stands with two of his Spanish 120 students - Russ Lindquist and Nadia Malabad

By Russell Lindquist

GROSSMONT COLLEGE–What is it that separates a good teacher from an exceptional one?  I suppose that can vary.  However, that which seemed to have set apart the late Spanish Professor Roberto Erquiaga as an exceptional teacher was his absolute and obvious love of teaching.

Before having patiently guided, in Fall 2008, yet another group of first-semester Spanish students–myself included–through the basics of the language, Erquiaga had already taught Spanish for the better part of four decades, at both Grossmont and Southwestern Colleges respectively.

Undoubtedly Erquiaga had plodded through the same, simple concepts hundreds of times before, with thousands of previous students; nevertheless, Erquiaga never once seemed, to me, to consider even a single lesson or rule in Spanish 120 to be tedious, even after all his years.

At one point during class, Professor Erquiaga confessed that, before beginning his mega career as a Spanish teacher–he always assumed that he could never teach a class in English: “My English was not so good,” he said with his trademark chuckle. Rather, Erquiaga had always assumed he would teach, to Spanish-speakers, his first academic love: History.

Instead, Erquiaga wove downright delightful historical contexts and facts into his excellently presented class. He certainly had class.

He was teaching at age 87 (and died one week before turning 88).  He was born in Lima, Peru on March 16, 1923 and died on March 9, 2011. Roberto Erquiaga is survived by his loving wife of nearly six decades and their children.

Lindquist is managing editor of the GC Summit.  He may be contacted at


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