By Sandy Ott
Joseba Zulaika and I met thirty-six years ago in Donosti. In 1983, he had just joined the faculty at the University of the Basque Country. I had recently become the director of USAC’s first study abroad program in Donosti. Kate Camino was among that first cohort of pioneering USAC students. Little did any of us know that our professional paths would eventually find us all in Reno as colleagues at the William A. Douglass Center for Basque Studies.
Joseba joined the UNR faculty in 1990, twenty-three years after Bill Douglass became the first coordinator of the Basque Studies Program. When Bill retired in December 1999, Joseba became the Center’s first Director. He has played an integral role in the transformation of the Center, now often described by UNR President Marc Johnson as “a jewel in the crown.” During Joseba’s directorship (2000-2005) the number of faculty doubled, in large part owing to the support of Bill Raggio, Joe Crowley, and Bill Douglass and to skillful lobbying by our longstanding Advisory Board member, Pete Ernaut. Joseba was also closely involved in the creation of that Advisory Board, in response to friendly pressure from the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Bob Mead. The Advisory Board held its first meeting in January 2001, with John Echeverria as its first Chair and Bill Douglass as its Vice-Chair.
As Director of the Center, Joseba also recognized the need to secure support from Basque public institutions. Our Advisory Board and its leadership under John and Bill helped us obtain financial support from the Basque Government and the Diputación de Bizkaia. Joseba’s efforts, as well as Bill’s, resulted in a $60,000 grant from the Basque Government and an annual agreement to support the Center’s development of online courses, publications and conferences. That ongoing support by the Basque Government and other Basque institutions has proved fundamental to the Center’s record of excellence. Joseba’s close involvement with the developing CBS Press began with textbooks for online courses and expanded into various distinguished series, such as the Classics Series, the Basque Literature and the Basque Diaspora Series. Joseba also played an instrumental role in developing the Basque Library as an integral component in our collective mission to generate and disseminate knowledge about the Basques.
During his long and distinguished career, Joseba has received several awards and prizes, most notably among them the coveted Euskadi Prize for his outstanding memoir, That Old Bilbao Moon. The memoir is an “ethnography of desire, an essay tracking a generation’s consciousness.” Its opening paragraph gives the reader a flavor of the amazing journey ahead: “It was the spring of 1999 and a Carnival Monday morning when I returned for a visit to San Felicísimo (“Saint Happiest”)—the Bilbao monastery where in the 1960s, as a teenager and for almost a decade, I tried hard to become a saint, but was finally expelled, an atheist and suicidal (That Old Bilbao Moon, 2014, p. 9).”
Joseba has long tackled daunting topics in his research and writing. Internationally known for his works on terrorism, Joseba will crown his academic career later this year with the publication of his riveting (and admittedly disquieting), forthcoming book, Killing from Las Vegas: Drone warfare and the American Dream (under contract with the University of California Press).
Joseba, we all wish you every happiness and continuing success in your retirement in July. Thank you so much for everything you have done for the Center.
Professor of Basque Studies