DH@SDSU is sad to share the news of Angel David Nieves’s passing earlier this month. Angel was hired as Associate Professor of History and Digital Humanities in 2017 and went on to serve as co-director of the DH initiative at SDSU from 2019-2020.
DH@SDSU prioritizes people over process and product, an ethic of care, and all the ways in which relationality gives deeper meaning to this work. In that spirit, rather than providing an inventory of Angel’s accomplishments at SDSU or in the Digital Humanities community, we wanted to share some anecdotes about who he was to us.
Share your memories here, or on Angel’s memorial page, created by Dorothy Kim, Greg Lord, and Cassie Tanks.
Joanna Brooks (Co-Founder, DH@SDSU; AVP, Faculty Advancement): He was, from the first I met him, someone I trusted implicitly–someone who understood the stakes of our work in the humanities, the importance of being true to each other and of prioritizing the collective good. He was also someone–dammit, I do not want to write in past tense–who knew that given the stakes and the long historical horizon of our work, none of us could afford to take ourselves too seriously–certainly not at the expense of others. Angel was more than a colleague. He was a beloved neighbor, friend, and co-worker in the space of grassroots humanitarian relief for migrants detained at the San Diego border. Every week, he showed up faithfully to join about 20 local citizens, friends, students, and faculty here in San Diego to help process mail from and get money orders to people in detention at Otay Mesa Detention Center. No matter how long his day, he sat down at the table with all of us, to work, eat, cry, and laugh (as appropriate and necessary), as we held handwritten letters from detainees in our hands. Sometimes we met at my house, so of course, my family–including my two daughters, our very neurotic rescue dog Fiona and my nephew Evan–came to know him and Richard as a loving, sweet, generous, and devoted couple. I cannot believe I am writing in past tense about the both of them. The only thing is knowing that they are together now, which is a relief because in my conversations with Richard before he passed, this was his greatest concern. Angel carried a lot of weight he did not want to freight the rest of us with. He just showed up and did what needed to be done for his junior colleagues, his graduate students, his friends, and for the good of the collective. I love him (not past tense). Descansa en paz y poder, sweet friend.
Pam Lach (Co-Director, DH@SDSU and Director, Digital Humanities Center): Angel and I became fast friends even before his arrival in San Diego in 2018. As fellow historians, digital humanists, and extreme dog lovers, we had a lot in common. We were frequent dinner guests in each other’s homes, and he and his partner Richard were eager, and doting, dog sitters. I remember how generous Angel was with his time at the 2019 Digital Humanities Summer Institute at the University of Victoria. A seasoned instructor and keynote speaker at DHSI, he took the time to have meals with me, show me around, and make me feel welcome as a newcomer to that community. I had the pleasure of working with him in several of his classes before becoming DH@SDSU co-directors in 2019. He inspired me to be more intentional about my DH praxis and to articulate more clearly my professional values. While the pandemic upended our near-weekly lunches and the plans we made, I was grateful to have the chance to say goodbye—from a safe distance in my backyard—to Angel and Richard before their departure to Boston. I am comforted knowing that Angel thrived at Northeastern, as a historian, a teacher, and a digital humanist. I’ve been in touch with two of his NU doctoral students, both SDSU history alum, who are struggling to process this loss. He left an indelible mark on everyone he met and he’ll continue to be in my thoughts, always.
Sureshi Jayawardene (Co-Director, DH@SDSU): I didn’t know Angel David Nieves very well. I knew him by name long before I met him in fall 2018 when we went through faculty orientation together. From our very first meeting, he came across as a generous spirit, imparting words of academic wisdom to a handful of us newbie BIPOC junior faculty during orientation. I had few interactions with Angel during his time at SDSU, and when we did cross paths it was mostly in DH spaces, the CAL Diversity Council meetings, or in the CAL elevator! Even after he left SDSU, Angel stayed in touch with me via social media and always big-upped any accomplishment I had–especially my role as co-director of DH@SDSU. He introduced me to the DH folk at NULab at Northeastern for a virtual speaker series on “Intersectionality, Digital Scholarship, and Activism,” featuring artists and activists. I remember wondering why he chose to include me in this when he probably had a large pool of very cool DH folk he could invite. But, for this opportunity, I will always be grateful. While my relationship with Angel was brief and limited, I found him to be honestly generous and sincerely invested in the success and recognition of junior BIPOC faculty. Rest easy, Angel.
Nate Rodriguez (Associate Professor, Journalism and Media Studies; Digital Humanities and Global Diversity Area of Excellence faculty member): It is challenging to encapsulate my feelings about Angel, his magnanimous personality, and his passing in a single paragraph. Angel, the first openly queer and Brown person in academia whom I could call both a mentor and a friend, holds a very special place in my heart. He willingly and enthusiastically offered his support and guidance to all, but there was just something magical about a jota leading another jota down a straight white road at SDSU. Although his time at SDSU was relatively brief, it proved to be one of the most impactful periods, as evident from my DH colegas above. Intelligent, charismatic, and ambitious, Angel accomplished whatever he put his mind (and heart) to. There are so many memories that I can write about (and many I cannot lol); for now, I prefer to keep them private as I navigate this grief. One thing I will share is that Angel showed me that authenticity in my queer Latinidad was needed and warranted in academia and beyond. One should always be proud of who they are, stand up for what they believe, and empower those around them! Angel, gracias por tu mentoría, tu amistad, y tu apoyo. Heaven is now a lot more fabulous and smarter with you there. Descansa en poder, amigx!