It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to Juan Pastoriza, a good friend and long-time collaborator with Smithsonian Affiliations. Juan passed away on November 10, and will be greatly missed by his many colleagues, friends and family.
Juan was the director of the Museum and Center of Humanistic Studies at the Universidad del Turabo in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. Recognizing a need for professional museum studies training on the Island, Juan worked with the Smithsonian to create a 4-part series of week-long workshops, leading to a certificate in Museum Studies. Spanning collections care, public programming, exhibition development, and administration, Juan’s work touched scores of museum professionals in Puerto Rico, who went on to staff the Island’s museums, cultural organizations and municipal arts councils.
Starting in 2002, the Smithsonian began sending its staff to Puerto Rico to lead and teach classes. The entire Smithsonian was represented through these workshops, from curators to conservators, educators to administrators. In some summers (2006 and 2009), Juan led a group of his peers to Washington, to go behind-the-scenes at the Smithsonian to experience museum practice first-hand. In 2008, Juan worked with the Smithsonian to explore federal funding programs, attracting representatives from the NEA, NEH, IMLS, NSF, and the National Park Service to Puerto Rico, to discuss the details of writing successful federal grants. Regardless of the location or topic, it was clear that Juan was committed to training the next generation of Puerto Rican museum professionals, and in the process, inspired his colleagues at the Smithsonian to be the best examples we could be.
The director of Smithsonian Affiliations, Harold Closter, offered these words of dedication, read at Juan’s memorial service on November 17 at the Universidad del Turabo:
Dear friends and members of the Pastoriza family,
We are deeply saddened by the news of Juan’s passing and reach out to all of you with our sympathies, compassion and love. Juan touched our hearts and minds in ways that have changed us all, and in ways that we will never forget. With a disarming smile and a gentle manner, he challenged us to be better teachers, better museum professionals, and better people.
The Smithsonian Institution owes Juan Pastoriza a great debt of gratitude for conceiving and organizing the annual Museum Studies Certificate program at the Universidad del Turabo. The program was more than an academic exercise. It was Juan’s way of preserving the heritage and traditional culture of Puerto Rico, a heritage he loved deeply and worked so hard for, by utilizing the resources of the Smithsonian to help train a new generation of Puerto Rican museum professionals. Through Juan, we had the privilege of working with the best and the brightest – museum staff, artists, community leaders, and passionate students. Juan’s genius was to create an environment that eliminated the distinction between teacher and student. Through Juan, we came together in a great circle of friendship and mutual learning. Juan and his students were often our teachers; from them learned as much as we imparted.
Each of us has strong memories of Juan – of his kindness, of his commitment, and of his probing mind. He never stopped questioning and pushing us to unlock doors – doors that we couldn’t even name — that would make our work accessible and more useful to him and his students. Because of Juan we have grown professionally and personally, and for that we shall be forever grateful.
A person like Juan is a gift that one experiences, if one is lucky, once in a lifetime. We were fortunate to receive this gift. We know that Juan can never be replaced and we will miss him dearly. He was a blessing whose presence enriched our lives and whose work will live on through all the people he touched.
AdiÃ³s a nuestro amigo y hermano. May your spirit continue to inspire us to honor the heritage and culture of your people, and the beauty and humanity of all people, everywhere.
All of Juan’s Friends and Admirers at the