Laura Padilla, an assistant professor of English at Colorado College and an influential figure in bringing Chicano and Chicana literary figures to the Pikes Peak region, died Sunday following complications from a long battle with cancer.
The 39-year-old New Mexico native began teaching at CC in 2006 as a Riley Scholar-in-Residence following her completion of a Ph.D. at the University of Texas. Padilla, a member of the National Association for Chicana and Chicano studies, also taught in the college's Race and Ethnic Studies and Southwest Studies departments.
"Laura was our dear colleague - smart, witty, and warm," said Genevieve Love, chairwoman of CC's English Department. "We're going to miss her terribly."
Students who took classes with Padilla remember her as being a rigorous professor who, while demanding of her students, was patient in explaining the concepts that she had passionately studied.
Padilla continued teaching at CC in the face of her battles with cancer, lecturing and mentoring through the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy. She was recently working on a book manuscript titled "Land of Enchantment, Land of Mi Chante," the college said.
"We admire her courage and resilience," the college said in a campus-wide release. "We will miss her collegiality, her sense of humor, and her kindness."
Padilla offered clarity and insight into critical, and sometimes difficult, diversity issues, teaching in a gentle, light-hearted way, Bruce Corriell, a chaplain at the college, told The Gazette.
"She was an extraordinary faculty member," he added.
A Facebook posting on Colorado College's page quickly garnered a number of comments from colleagues and former students who expressed their condolences and admiration for Padilla.
Padilla is survived by her husband, Peter Haney, who also once worked at CC, and many family members. Plans for a memorial service have not been announced; a local gathering to honor Padilla is being planned.