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For immediate use

May 2, 2000 -- No. 258


Local angle: Winter Park, Fla.

Latin American studies scholar, statesman Federico Gil dies at 85

CHAPEL HILL -- Dr. Federico Guillermo Gil, a former statesman, Kenan professor emeritus of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an internationally known pioneer in Latin American political science studies, died April 22 of a pulmonary embolism.

Gil (pronounced "HILL"), 85, helped develop the framework for President Kennedyís Alliance for Progress and served as consultant and adviser to the United Nations, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Peace Corps and other international organizations.

Gil wrote classic works on Latin America including "The Governments of Latin America," "Latin American-United States Relations" and "The Political System of Chile," considered the major work on Chile published in English. Many of his books have been adopted as texts and published in Spanish and other languages. He edited other scholarly publications and served on editorial boards.

He received a singular honor when he was named Knight Commander of the Order of Merit Bernardo OíHiggins, the Chilean governmentís highest award. He was one of the first two North Americans to be admitted to the National Academy of Law and Social Sciences of Argentina.

Gil was a founder and president of the Latin American Studies Association and a recipient of its Kalman Silvert Award for outstanding lifetime service to Latin American studies.

Gil retired from the UNC-CH faculty in 1980 after 37 years of service that included 25 years as director of the Institute of Latin American Studies, one of the nationís premier centers for training and investigation. The instituteís undergraduate curriculum twice was ranked the nationís best during Gilís tenure.

"Dr. Gil was an extraordinarily prominent scholar, a devoted mentor to his graduate students, an award-winning undergraduate teacher and a brilliant administrator," said UNC-CH political science professor Dr. Jonathan Hartlyn, now the institute's director. "But above all, he was a gentleman and a gentle man. We will all miss him terribly."

Gil remained active in institute affairs and visited often through sometime last year, Hartlyn said. For many years after he retired, he continued to head the instituteís Spanish exchange program, co-direct the undergraduate honors thesis program and review masterís theses and doctoral dissertations. He was awarded an honorary degree from Carolina in 1991.

Gil's other university honors included recognition by the College of Arts and Sciences in 1988 with an endowed chair bearing his name. He won a Nicholas Salgo Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching and was inducted into the Order of the Golden Fleece, a student honorary society.

Through his own bequest, Gil created the Federico Gil Distinguished Visiting Professorship of Latin American Politics, to bring top Latin American scholars to teach in the political science department. He also donated his personal library, a 5,000-item collection, to the university in 1979.

In 1985, he received an honorary degree from Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., where he taught many winters as the first Alfred Hanna Distinguished Professor of Latin American Studies.

Gil is survived by a nephew, Raul Gil, of Cuba. A local memorial service will be announced later, Hartlyn said. Questions may be directed to the institute at 919-966-1484.

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Contact: Dr. Jonathan Hartlyn, 919-962-6880