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Juan Manuel Gómez Topete

April 6, 1944 - February 22, 2020

Juan Manuel Gómez TopeteJuan Manuel Gómez TopeteDr. Juan Manuel Gómez Topete, retired Professor of Spanish Language and Literature, passed away on February 22, 2020.  He was born on April 6, 1944, in Atenguillo, Jalisco, Mexico, to the late Manuel Gómez and the late María
Dolores Topete.  His mother passed away when he was five years old, and until he was twelve, he lived and worked on the family ranch, riding horses, donkeys, and moving cattle.

At the age of twelve, Juan Manuel moved away from home to be under the care of his cousin and godmother, before entering the seminary to study for the priesthood.  Due to the politics in Mexico in the 1960s, he entered Montezuma Seminary, New Mexico, USA, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Sciences in 1968.  While there, he worked a printing press and played baseball and soccer.  His initial forays into learning English were almost entirely through reading comic books.  Later, he earned a second Bachelor’s degree in Latin American Literature with a minor in Latin from San Jose State University in 1972.  In 1974, Juan Manuel earned his Master’s degree in Spanish, and in 1981, he earned his Ph.D. in Spanish, Siglo de Oro, from the University of Oregon.

Juan Manuel became a USA citizen in 1984, which he was proud of achieving.  He met his wife of 45 years, Kathleen Gómez, in the foyer of Carson Hall at the University of Oregon when she was trying to get a large box from home into the elevator.

Dr. Gómez spent his early teaching career at Willamette University, Chemeketa Community College, and Western Oregon University.  He spent 33 years of his career at Linfield College, teaching Spanish and Literature.  Dr. Gómez was conferred Emeritus status upon retirement in 2014.  He absolutely loved his time at Linfield College.

While raising his children, Juan Manuel spent many hours learning how to write computer programs in the earliest years of the personal computer, and continuing to study languages such as French, Italian, and Latin in his spare time.  He loved traveling with Kathleen to Europe, Mexico, and Canada, and was looking forward to a trip to New Mexico in Spring and the Orkney Islands next year.  Juan Manuel and his wife spent many hours developing a large flower garden and growing and canning vegetables.  He always insisted in growing a LOT of tomatoes.  One favorite pastime was researching his family history; Juan Manuel was excited to trace his family back to the 1600s.  He was always one to fix or build things himself; if he didn’t know how to do something, he researched it until he learned how to do it.  He thoroughly enjoyed sharing his knowledge with his daughters and grandsons.

Dr. Gómez’s professional legacy is his influence on many generations of college students who benefitted from his unorthodox at the time methods of teaching Spanish language and culture.  He firmly believed that people could learn Spanish and the nuances of culture through a whole language, conversational approach.  Dr. Gómez was a leader in developing computer-mediated technological tools to enhance learning.  He developed and refined materials to reach diverse student populations, and collaborated with Oregon colleagues in the publication of ¿Cómo?, a Spanish language textbook used by regional universities for years.  He conducted historical research in the libraries of Spain, and this enriched his teaching.  He worked tirelessly to encourage his students to study abroad and supported them in preparation for the experience.  Dr. Gómez led numerous groups of students abroad to Paris, Costa Rica, Mexico and Spain.  He was known for his lively debates, his witty sense of humor, his smile, and his funny antics in the classroom.

On his last trip to Spain, as a part of his sabbatical in 2005, Juan Manuel walked the famed pilgrimage known as el Camino de Santiago from Sevilla to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, in 39 days, with an approximate distance of 1000 kilometers.  He loved to send photos home of his adventures on that journey, and tell the family of the people he befriended.  It was an important spiritual and emotional experience for Juan Manuel.

Juan Manuel is survived by his wife of 45 years, Kathleen Gómez, daughters Jessica Graham (Tyrell), Katrina Gómez (JL Giannone), grandchildren Connor and Colin Graham, and extensive family.  In lieu of flowers, it would be appreciated if memorial donations were directed to Linfield College, in memory of Juan Manuel Gómez Topete, toward the creation of a scholarship for Hispanic college students, either via mail, Attn:  Institutional Advancement, Linfield College; 900 SE Baker St; McMinnville, OR; over the phone at 503-883-2675, or online via their website.  A funeral mass will be held on March 9, at 2:00 p.m., at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.  A private celebration of life will be held at a future date.

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Juan was during my twenty-two years at Linfield College a friend, colleague, and mentor. From Juan I learned not only how to teach but how to live fully and well. He was a model of patience, collegiality, and decency, and I will always treasure the years I spent working beside him and my other wonderful departmental colleagues at Linfield.