Rafael Falcón, professor emeritus of Spanish, dies at 74

Dr. Rafael Falcón, professor emeritus of Spanish at Goshen College, died Wednesday, August 17, 2022. He was 74 years old.

Dr. Falcón taught Spanish at Goshen College from 1979 to 2011. In addition to teaching, Falcón served as the chair of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures Department at different times, director of Hispanic Ministries at GC from 1979-83 and as the advisor for the Latino Student Union. He and his wife, Christine, also served as leaders of six units of the college’s Study-Service Term during 1983-84 and 1998-99.

“Rafael was a colleague and a good friend. I shall miss him and his mischievous sense of humor.” said Robert Yoder, associate professor emeritus of Spanish at Goshen College, who taught from 1968-93. “What I remember most about him is his gift for languages. He was a wordsmith in his own language. He could make poetry just by speaking Spanish.”

Falcón was born on September 3, 1947 in Aibonito, Puerto Rico to Ramón and Ana Luisa (Meléndez) Falcón. He received a bachelor’s degree in 1968 from Universidad Interamericana in Puerto Rico and both a master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Iowa in 1977 and 1979.

Falcón married Christine Yoder, who graduated from Goshen College in 1971 with a degree in Elementary Education. She also worked at Goshen College from 1980-98.

Prior to teaching at Goshen College, Falcón was a junior high Spanish, physical education and social studies teacher at Academia Menonita Betania from 1968-70 and also at the Department of Public Instruction from 1970-72. He then returned to Academia Menonita Betania to be the director of the school from 1973-76. He was a Spanish instructor at the University of Iowa for three years before coming to Goshen College in 1979.

“It has been very rewarding to see students develop a passion and love for Spanish language and Hispanic culture,” said Falcón at his retirement. “Equally energizing has been observing graduates move into an assortment of work or graduate studies, where they are utilizing those skills honed in the classroom.”

Falcón published several books and articles. In 1985, Herald Press published his “La Iglesia Menonita Hispana en Norte América: 1932-1982” (Herald Press, 1985), as well as its translated version, “Salsa: A Taste of Hispanic Culture” (Greenwood Press, 1998), “Mi Gente: In Search of the Hispanic Soul” (Cursack Books, 2008), and “Historia del Menonitismo Hispanohablante: 1917-1990” (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015), which chronicles the experience of Spanish-speaking Mennonites in the 20th century, a topic he experienced firsthand on his island home of Puerto Rico.

Falcón also co-edited nine books of the Coleccíon Menohispana with Tom Lehman, including  “Mennonite Memories of Puerto Rico” (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014) and “Growing up Mennonite in Puerto Rico: Nuestras Memorias” (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017).

In addition, he has written about various topics in Spanish, including Spanish American literature, Hispanic culture and Spanish grammar, and has edited numerous Spanish textbooks.

Falcón is survived by his wife, Christine, Goshen; two sons, Bryan (Elizabeth) Falcón, Arizona, and Brent (Cara) Falcón, Indiana; two grandchildren, Willow and Sebastian; siblings, Annabell (Charles) Trimmer, Virginia, Alfredo (Betty) Falcón, Florida, Marcos (Lizette) Falcón, Florida, Ruben Falcón, Indiana, and Judy (Fernando) Marroquín, Indiana. Preceding him in death are his parents.

A celebration of life will be announced at a later date. Rieth-Rohrer-Ehret Funeral Homes, Goshen, is handling arrangements, and online condolences may be sent at www.rsfh.com. Donations in Falcón’s honor for Academia Menonita Betania in Puerto Rico may be made online via GoFundMe.