by Tobin Jones
Dr. Carlos Brazil Ramirez, former President of City College, passed away earlier this month at his home in Santa Fe, N.M. at the age of 75. He is survived by his wife Judy, and his two children, Carlos and Elizabeth.
A native of New Mexico, Ramirez served as President of City College from 1983 to 1989, an era marked by difficulties around funding and threats to City College’s accreditation. These fiscal challenges unfolded against a backdrop of brutal cutbacks to public education by the Republican-dominated California legislature.
Dr. Ramirez opposed then-Governor George Deukmejian’s ultimately successful efforts to charge California Community College students tuition. And in the face of budget woes, he resisted pressure from those who wanted to solve the crisis by gutting student services to preserve scarce financial resources for teaching. But his tenure also saw the implementation of class cuts and fee hikes that he and other administrators said were necessary to cope with the sharp decrease in state funding, prompting protests by student and faculty and staff unions. In his final year in office, the college was threatened with the loss of its accreditation. After stepping down in 1989, he taught Political Science at the University of New Mexico before leaving to spend his final years tending to his Santa Fe ranch, which friends say was a longtime dream.
Dr. Ramirez is remembered for spearheading the creation of public art around campus, such as “El Rey,” a replica of one of Mexico’s famous Olmec heads. He was also instrumental in the care and preservation of the well-known “Pan-American Unity” mural by Diego Rivera located inside City College’s theater.
Ramirez was, and remains, the only Latino to ever serve as President of the college. His hiring, which was aided by a pressure campaign waged by students and faculty, was seen as a “great victory,” for many students of Latin American ancestry, according to former City College faculty and friend of Dr. Ramirez, Michael Ruiz.
Former colleagues and friends interviewed by The Guardsman described a sincere, charismatic, and hardworking man who made a point of keeping his office door open for all those with questions or concerns to come and chat with him over a steaming hot cup of coffee. Ruiz, who stayed in touch with Dr. Ramirez after he left the college, and described him as his closest friend, said that Ramirez was a “wise and tough guy.”
Professor and Journalism Department Head Juan Gonzalez, who was first hired by Dr. Ramirez in 1983, remembers him as an “always a very joyful person” easily recognizable by the prominent chevron mustache that he sported over a perpetually wide grin “He always seemed like a dreamer … dreaming for the best.”