The Heroines

Geraldine Savaiano

is honored with a Brick from Eugene Savaiano.


Little did I know back in the early thirties at the then Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia that Jerry Farr, a scholarly classmate of mine working on a B.S. and M.S. degree in Spanish and French, as I was, would some day become my beloved wife, the mother of my three children, and the grandmother of my nine grandchildren. Nor did it occur to me that this intelligent, smarter-than-me classroom competitor, who ran off after graduation to do five years of educational work in Panama and Lima, Peru, while I did my military service during WWII, would be able to use that experience to contribute significantly to my professional career as a professor of Romance Languages at Wichita State University.

Jerry and I were married during my third year here. It did not take long for her to settle into the academic and social lives that our profession had to offer: AAUW, University Dames, Pam American Club, church activities, etc. But most of all, Jerry profited from her Latin American experience, where she learned the value of bi-lingual education, and encouraged me to get on the band wagon and take advantage of the government grants available for the purpose of upgrading the teaching and study of foreign languages. Jerry wrote our first proposal for a teachers’ institute and shaped the format which it was to take, placing major emphasis on the use of foreign nationals in our program in Mexico. It was during her stays in Mexico that she prepared the materials for the renowned traveling cultural units loaded with native realia that have been used by Spanish teachers all over the United States. Jerry taught culture and language classes in the institutes.

When the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese established its headquarters on our campus, Jerry became the Administrative Assistant, handling the day-by-day communication with some 17,000 members throughout the world.

All of this professionalism did not lesson Jerry’s role as wife and mother. Her love for her family made us the main focus in her life. We came first -- we stayed together. When a convention or summer in Mexico was necessary, we packed up the kids and took them with us. From her, we all learned the meaning of integrity and honesty, the kids learned the importance of respect for others and the value of hard work. Her life as a Depression child caused her to remind us all that we spent only what we had.

I am proud today, after some thirteen years of retirement, to acknowledge the role that my heroine, Jerry, played in my personal and professional life. Without her, my department would have been known only as a teaching department. There would have been no government institutes, no national Spanish teachers organization on campus, and no summer programs in Mexico, all of which contributed significantly not only to the department but to the university as a whole. She has illustrated that there can be a perfect wife and mother who, at the same time, can be a true productive professional.

Submitted by Gene Savaiano

September 18, 1998 (for Geraldine Savaiano)