Faculty of Arts & Science mourns passing of Lourdes Pérez Montalvo

Lourdes Pérez Montalvo, professor and Vice Dean of Research, Graduate Studies and International Relations at the University of Havana’s Faculty of Philosophy and History passed away April 15 in Havana. Generations of Faculty of Arts and Science students will know Professor Pérez as the Havana coordinator of the Queen’s/University of Havana exchange program, and the FAS course Cuban Culture and Society.

Queen’s and the University of Havana have partnered for the past 12 years to teach the Cuban Society and Culture course and host visiting scholars and artists. The study abroad course has seen over 350 students study in Havana.

FAS professors Susan Lord and Karen Dubinsky worked with Professor Pérez for more than 15 years.

In 2018 the agreement was renewed for the exchange with the University of Havana, and Dean Barbara Crow and then VP for International Kathy O’Brien travelled to Havana with the students to do the signing.

“Lourdes was the shining example of why international education is so important for students, educators, researchers, and administrators like me,” says Dr. O’Brien. “During my time at Queen's, I travelled the world, but I was never made to feel so welcome, and my heart so filled with warmth as when we walked onto that campus, and I first met Lourdes.”

The course begins at Queen’s in the winter term. Students learn about the history of Cuba from 1959 to present day, studying social and cultural challenges, successes, and innovations. Students then travel to Havana for two weeks to experience what they learned over the semester. They visit historic monuments, take in the modern landscape of music, agriculture, and city living, participate in classes at the University of Havana, and enjoy the warm hospitality of their Cuban colleagues and fellow students. This connection between Queen’s and the University of Havana has led to dozens of research projects by both universities’ researchers.

“Each year Lourdes would greet our group upon our arrival -- at whatever hour – and send us off to the airport at the end of our time in Havana,” says Dr. Lord. “So much more than an administrator, she shared her research, gave advice and care, and took great pleasure in watching and listening to the students navigate the complicated world of Havana.”

Dr. Dubinsky echoes these comments and says she and Dr. Lord are personally devasted by the loss. “While we were in Havana, Lourdes provided our students with everything from intellectual inspiration to sunburn treatments to astute political commentary.”

Professor Pérez Montalvo is survived by a large and loving family, including her daughter, Dailys in Havana and her son Dairon, who is a graduate student at Queen’s. He completed his MA in Global Development Studies and is currently doing his PhD in Geography.

Learn more about the program from the students that experienced it in this video: