Cecilia Alvear, NF ’89, who worked for NBC for 25 years and was a former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, died April 21 in Santa Monica, California after battling cancer. Born in Ecuador, she worked at news stations in Los Angeles before NBC hired her in 1982 to run its Mexico City bureau. She covered wars and revolution in Central America and produced several interviews with Cuban President Fidel Castro. She was a champion of diversity and advocated for increased opportunities for Hispanic journalists. She served on the Nieman Foundation advisory board from 2004 to 2013.
Nieman classmate Rick Tulsky called her “the glue for our class. She was loved by everyone, and she always made sure that the class, as a class, stayed together and bonded.” Julio Godoy, who was reporting for La Epoca in Guatemala when the paper was firebombed and he was invited to join the Nieman class of 1989, writes that Cecilia “became a kind of serene sister, always with a gracious word of support whenever I despaired.” Michael Connor related an example of her strength as a do-er with a spirit that brought others into her cause:
Cecilia embodied the best of the “Yes, and…” spirit of improvisational theater: the idea that one accepts what is on hand, what is offered—“Yes!”— and adds something to make it greater—“and…” Cecilia did not need theatrical training to come to that awareness; it was deeply bred, it is who she was.
Twenty years ago, we [my wife Barb and two sons] joined Cecilia and [her partner] George [Lewis] and other family and friends on an excursion to her home islands, Galapagos. … It was an extraordinary, exotic, and peaceable experience, yes. And… she had more in mind than just a nifty vacation.
We visited Alejandro Alvear school, the first school to open in the islands, named for her father. It was underfinanced and poorly equipped for the modern age, and she worried that its graduates would be ill-prepared for a digital world. So she began organizing to build its capacity to teach the necessary skills.
Illness eventually intervened. She had to give it up. But it was pure Cecilia. See a need, address it. Enlist others. Expand the sphere. …
Curiosity breeds humility, and she had both in abundance. Which made her a great journalist. And a great friend.