MARTIN ORTIZ, 89
Higher education pioneer for Hispanics
Martin Ortiz, who inspired thousands of Hispanic students to reach for college and earn degrees as the founding director of Whittier College's Center of Mexican American Affairs, died Jan. 12 at an assisted living facility in Whittier, Calif., according to Alex Tenorio, a longtime friend. He had suffered from Parkinson's disease and was diagnosed with pneumonia.
Soft-spoken but tenacious, Mr. Ortiz was an institution on the campus in Whittier, southeast of downtown Los Angeles, who was affectionately known as El Jefe (the Boss) or simply as "Dad" for his dedication to recruiting Hispanic students, guiding them through the application process, and helping them obtain scholarships, grants, internships and jobs.
Many of the students he helped enroll were the first in their families to attend college.
"Martin really had an impact on people. He pushed education. That was the message of his whole career," said William Estrada, a former assistant dean of Occidental College who is now curator of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Mr. Ortiz founded the Center of Mexican American Affairs in 1968, when few institutions of higher learning were reaching out to Hispanic youths. Over the decades of his advocacy, Hispanic enrollment at Whittier College, former President Richard M. Nixon's alma mater, grew more than fivefold to its current rate of 28 percent, among the highest in the nation for private four-year colleges and universities.
W.D. SNODGRASS, 83
W.D. Snodgrass, a founding figure of the "confessional" school of poetry, whose tightly controlled autobiographical verse exerted a powerful influence on other writers, died Jan. 13 of lung cancer at his farmhouse near Erieville, N.Y.
Mr. Snodgrass found early success, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his first book of poetry, Heart's Needle, which appeared in 1959. In the deeply intimate poems, he explored his experiences in the military and his separation from his daughter because of a divorce.
The volume contained his most famous line - "Snodgrass is walking through the universe" - and turned away from the cool, impersonal poetry that prevailed at the time.
Several critics accused Mr. Snodgrass of being sentimental and self-involved, but Heart's Needle led to an immediate shift in what was considered acceptable poetic material.
Poet Stanley Kunitz wrote in Harper's magazine in 1960 that Mr. Snodgrass had "the gift of transforming ordinary experience, including the domestic, into a decisive act of the imagination, remarkable for its pace and clarity and controlled emotion."