Dr. Margaret Vázquez-Geffroy

Dr. Margaret Vázquez-Geffroy
Distinguished Professor Emerita
Homecoming 2015


Margaret-Vazquez-Geffroy-smCultural anthropologist Dr. Margaret Vázquez-Geffroy joined the Highlands faculty in 1974, the beginning of a 29-year career with the university.

Vázquez-Geffroy’s parents migrated to the United States from Puerto Rico, and she grew up in Spanish Harlem in New York City.

“Growing up in New York there was such a rich variety of cultures, and my friends were from countries across the world,” Vázquez-Geffroy said. “I was always interested in learning more about these cultures. The unity of humanity in New York drew me to study anthropology.”

She earned her B.A. and M.A. in anthropology from Hunter College of the City University of New York (CUNY) before heading west to complete her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of New Mexico.

Vázquez-Geffroy’s geographic areas of interest are Latin America and the American Southwest. Her research on kinship and social organization was published in scholarly journals such as the Journal of Biosocial Research, La Confluencia, Journal of Caribbean Studies, and Southwestern Educational Cooperative Laboratory.

She presented her research to organizations such as the Society for Applied Anthropology, Physical Anthropology Association, and Association of Folklorists.

At Highlands, Vázquez-Geffroy taught Native American culture, Latin American culture, anthropological linguistics, physical anthropology, and many more subjects.

“The most important aspect of teaching anthropology is to achieve cross-cultural understanding. I love teaching, and my students meant everything to me. I was drawn to the fact that most students shared a similar socioeconomic and ethnic background from Spanish traditions. God has given me the grace of seeing my students succeed and become contributing citizens of the world,” Vázquez-Geffroy said.

She said one highlight of her tenure at Highlands was in the 1970s and 1980s when she taught a class on Mesoamerica from prehistoric to contemporary times. Then she led these students to Mexico for an anthropological fieldwork class.

“First we’d visit the museums in Mexico City to delve into ancient and modern culture. Then we’d venture into the countryside for ethnographic fieldwork, writing observations of contemporary people and their cultures. The students were fascinated and learned so much. This kind of personal, in-depth immersion experience opens up your world,” Vázquez-Geffroy said.

She also has fond memories of advising the Native American Club for 25 years and advising the Anthropology/Sociology Club for 20 years.

Vázquez-Geffroy held numerous leadership positions during her tenure at Highlands such as Faculty Senate president, Student Affairs Committee chair, and Behavioral Sciences Department Executive Committee member, to name a few.

“I wanted to serve on these university committees so I could have impact in planning and policy that impacted students,” Vázquez-Geffroy said.

She worked alongside Robert Mishler, another anthropology professor emeritus, to develop and teach the anthropology curriculum.

“Bob Mishler and I were the best of colleagues at Highlands and are still working together today through Friends of the Las Vegas Museum,” Vázquez-Geffroy said.

This year Vázquez-Geffroy and her husband, John Geffroy, celebrate 50 years of marriage. It was a shared passion for anthropology that brought them together at Hunter – CUNY. John also completed his Ph.D. in anthropology at UNM and taught at Highlands early in his career. After that, he taught anthropology at the United World College – USA for 29 years.

“We have a strong partnership and always supported each other in our academic pursuits,” Vázquez-Geffroy said.

Her active engagement in the Las Vegas community continued after Vázquez-Geffroy retired from Highlands in 2001. She has served on the San Miguel Community Health Council since its inception, is active in the Highlands Retired Faculty and Emeritus Association, and serves on the parish council for Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.