Associate Professor Jorge Iber
Department of History, College of Arts and Sciences
Jorge Iber, chairman of the History Department, has an immigrant's love for the United States. A large man occupying a large office, his persona clearly reflects the personality of his native Cuba: casual in manner, sporting a colorful purple shirt and acting like he has all the time in the world for a friendly chat.
But Iber has another serious side: that of a scholar who has applied the thinking of a historian not just to his work but also to his life. He was only six years old when his family left Cuba. Both of his parents worked in factories in Miami, while Iber worked hard at becoming a Hispanic version of Horatio Alger. "The reason I drive myself is because I'm an immigrant," he says. "I'm a very motivated individual... I have no qualms about competing."
For Iber and his wife, America is a land full of possibilities. Showing off a framed photo of his son, an adopted six-year old Korean boy, he notes: "Imagine a Korean living with two Cuban Americans in West Texas. In no other country could you have done this."
Iber's work focuses on Mexican American and Latino history, as well as Southwest and U.S. sports history. He is still interested in all of these research areas, but finds himself increasingly drawn to "individuals who come from humble backgrounds... but who through luck and pluck achieve great things."
He is currently conducting research on the career and social significance of E.C. Lerma, one of the first Mexican American high school football coaches in the state of Texas.
Asked about his teaching philosophy, Iber says he tries to give students "opportunity and possibility," and to teach them to "never sell themselves short."
"Don't ever let anyone tell you that because your last name ends with a 'z' you're not as good as anyone else," he says.