Sociology professor dies

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He spent a lifetime fighting for political change in his native country of Paraguay and teaching students, drawing from his experiences.

Marcial Antonio Riquelme, 70, associate professor of sociology and former director of the Latin American Studies program, died July 29 of a stroke in Asuncion, Paraguay.

Betsy Cauble, head of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, said Riquelme, known by many as Tonio, brought diversity and a wealth of experience to the sociology department.

“He was always able to bring a different perspective to the issues,” Cauble said. “I think he will be greatly missed by the students. It’s so important to have those different perspectives.”

Riquelme started teaching at K-State in 1991. He also was a professor at the University of San Diego, three universities in Mexico and one university in Colombia.

Riquelme was active in the politics of Paraquay and other South American countries. Cauble said Riquelme was a renowned figure in Paraguay for his political action in the 1989 change in government from a dictatorship to democracy.

“Paraguay had a terrible dictator, and (Riquelme) was very political and spoke out against the government,” Cauble said. “He has spent some time in jail, been tortured and has been through a lot.”

Much of his research at K-State focused on studying government and social processes in Paraguay. He also was influential in building relations between K-State and Paraguay.

Riquelme served as director of Latin American Studies at K-State from 1991-96.

Bradley Shaw, director of international and area studies, said Riquelme was a role model to many Latin American students and was a significant loss to the program.

“He brought a life experience that was unique, and he related with students with the realities of his life,” Shaw said. “I’m certainly hopeful we can find someone to replace what Dr. Riquelme brought to the department.”

Riquelme was in the middle of a phased retirement. Shaw said Riquelme hoped to return to Paraguay to his family and work to improve the political climate there. Cauble said they have not hired a replacement in the sociology department but have made arrangements for students scheduled in his class to move to different sections.

“As we move into a world that’s smaller and smaller, to have somebody with such diversity like Dr. Riquelme to just sit down and talk to at the table, that is really great,” Cauble said. “And we won’t have that anymore.”

Riquelme is survived by his wife Yolande, daughter Tamara and son Jorge, all of Asuncion.

Cauble said his family will visit sometime this fall to claim his belongings. She said she hopes to schedule a memorial service during their visit.

Harold Prins, distinguished professor of anthropology, attended Riquelme’s funeral in Paraguay while beginning his sabbatical research there.

“Although Tonio’s death was sudden and far too early in his still very active and activist life, everyone was immensely grateful that Tonio had died while still in his beloved Paraguay and that he had just been able to celebrate his 70th birthday with family and friends,” Prins said via e-mail to several K-State coworkers.

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