Colleagues Mourn Labor Educator
By John Wray
Maria-Luz Daza Samper, an extension professor in the Division of Continuing Studies, died at her home in Storrs on Feb. 7. She was 59.
Samper was a faculty member of UConn's Labor Education Center for more than 25 years. She joined the University as a researcher and teacher in 1974, and continued her work with the center until her death.
Those who knew her saw her as a woman of extraordinary energy and capacity for work. She was very active in her field and her skills in organizing and development were widely recognized.
"Maria-Luz fought for labor education, global solidarity, union rights, human rights, and social justice her entire life," says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University, who worked with Samper for more than a decade. "She was a leader on so many fronts."
Samper was involved in a wide array of research projects. She profiled working women and men in Connecticut, analyzed Connecticut labor-management contracts, and wrote on occupational and reproductive hazards, the impact of free trade and offshore office technology, and the internationalization of white collar work.
"Her special interests included the changing world economy and its effects on workers everywhere, as well as how women are faring in the traditional and new world economies," says Mark Sullivan, the Center's director. "The class she most loved to teach was called Women and Technology in which she had the opportunity to introduce a class of nontraditional adult students to her research findings so that they could understand how the new economy is affecting them."
Samper taught a variety of courses in adult education, comparative education, and curriculum development, both in the U.S. and abroad. She delivered papers not only in the U.S., but around the world. In 1999, she taught a special course on globalization at the Sorbonne.
She also was one of the founders of the Northeast Regional Summer School for Union Women. "Her commitment to union women's empowerment was unflagging," says Dale Melcher, a labor extension specialist at UMass-Amherst.
Born in Tunja, Colombia, Samper received her bachelor's degree from the Universidad Pedagogica y Technoligica de Colombia in physiology and education, her master's in education at Pennsylvania State University, and her doctorate in supervision and curriculum at UConn.
During her career at UConn, she was a member of many organizations, boards, and committees, including the Executive Board of the AAUP, the Center for Latin American Studies, the Puerto Rican and Latin American Studies Program, the Advisory Board on Multicultural Action, and the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women.
In 1991, Samper was selected as one of 30 women for "Portraits of Strength: Connecticut Women," A Celebration of 100 Years of Women at the University of Connecticut.
"Maria lived her life by example," says Isnoel Rios, director of the Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center. "She had a passion for social justice and she was a nurturing and generous individual who helped many upon their arrival in Storrs. She was always opening doors and building bridges, not only within the University, but throughout the state and the nation."
She is survived by her daughter, Luz Adriana Samper, her brother, Cesar Ernesto Daza; her ex-husband Jesus N. Samper, and by many close friends.
A memorial service was held Saturday at the Church of St. Thomas Aquinas. Donations may be made to the National Foundation for Cancer Research, Bethesda, MD 20814, and the Covenant Soup Kitchen, 220 Valley Street, Willimantic, CT 06226.