In Memoriam, Dr. Joan Gilabert

Sept. 28, 2022

Professor Emeritus Joan Gilabert died at home on September 9, 2022, following a long, courageous struggle with numerous serious health challenges. He is survived by his wife Nancy, daughter Nuria and son Jordi, brother-in-law Ross and sister-in-law Barbara Johnson, and care provider Luis Batres.

Joan was born April 2, 1941, in Barcelona, Spain, during a difficult period in post-civil war Spain. He excelled in school and, like many Catalan youths of that time, left home “to seek his fortune;” that is, to continue his studies and find work.  After a year in France, he continued on to Munich, Germany.  There he joined a group of young Catalan men who became life-long friends.  In Munich, he held a variety of jobs including a telegram delivery boy, a milkman to U.S. GI families, a hotel manager, and an interpreter for Siemens.  His father had recommended that he study economics, but he found the humanities much more interesting and thus focused on history and philosophy.  He also became an avid bicyclist, making his epic trip alone from Germany, through Scandinavia as far as Nordkapp with his return via Finland.  In 1966 he determined to study for his doctorate in the U.S., which he began at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) and completed at Washington University (St. Louis).

Soon after arriving in Madison, he met Nancy in class; they married the following year.  After completing his Ph.D. Joan taught for several years at Kenyon College in Ohio, where the family doubled in size.  In 1977, they made the move to Tucson AZ when he accepted a position teaching language, literature, history, and philosophy in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese of the University of Arizona, which he continued until retiring in 2011.  John loved teaching and mentoring his students, considered the bicycle the only acceptable form of personal transportation, and was dedicated to the regreening of America by planting hundreds of trees wherever he lived.  Joan requested that his ashes be scattered beneath mountain pines.

A memorial donation to the Arbor Day Foundation is suggested.


Alumnus Dr. Luis Anchondo dedicated the latest episode of his podcast, Todo Está en Los Libros, to Dr. Joan Gilabert's life and academic contributions. Click here to listen and subscribe: Podcast Episode.