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August 1, 2017

Remembering Virginia M. “Ginny” Bouvier

Remembering Virginia M. “Ginny” Bouvier

With great sadness, Georgetown's Center for Latin American Studies mourns the passing of our colleague and friend Dr. Virginia M. "Ginny" Bouvier, senior advisor for peace processes at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) and adjunct faculty member at CLAS. 

Dr. Bouvier's latest post was at the United States Institute of Peace (2003-2017). In her role as senior advisor for peace processes, she became head of USIP’s Colombia team in 2006; she was seconded in 2012 and 2013 to serve as a process design expert for the United Nations Standby Team of Mediation Experts. Prior to USIP, she was a University of Maryland assistant professor of Latin American literature and culture. From 1982 to 1989, Dr. Bouvier served as senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America, focusing on Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Dr. Bouvier also served as a consultant and research director for the Women’s Leadership Conference of the Americas and as a consultant at the World Bank, Levi Strauss Foundation, Levi Strauss and Co., and the C.S. Fund. She was a graduate of Wellesley College, of the University of South Carolina-Columbia, and earned a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley in Latin American studies.


Tributes and Memorials from the CLAS Community:


Dr. Ginny Bouvier's career embodied a deep commitment—both personal and academic—to Latin America and the cause for peace.  Ginny made invaluable contributions to the Colombian peace processes over the last three decades, and we were honored to have her share that experience with our students here at Georgetown.  

- Matthew Carnes, S.J., Director of CLAS


Dr. Ginny Bouvier was a wonderful teacher and it was an honor and a privilege to learn from her vast experience in the pursuit of peace in Latin America. Despite her ridiculously busy schedule, she always tried to make as much time as possible to mentor students and help us explore our research and work interests. I feel lucky to have known her, even just for a semester. My deepest condolences go to her family and to the network of partners who benefited from her friendship and ceaseless commitment to the cause of peace.

-Jon Ettinger, CLAS, M.A.'18


Ginny’s strong social values can be traced at least in part to her roots growing up in Hamden Connecticut a suburban area on the outskirts of the city of New Haven. From a large middle-class Catholic home, Ginny experienced first-hand the Vatican II Church activism in her Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish. Church outreach programs encouraged parishioners’ such as the Bouviers to participate in innovative experiential living and service work, such as aiding Vietnamese refugee families and bonding with and assisting poverty-stricken Afro-American families from the inner city of New Haven. Her father Ed who was fluent in French was especially effective helping Vietnamese elders adapting to local American life. Together with his wife Jane Mansfield Bouvier, herself trained as a social worker, they led their family into this new frontier of parish social activism, embracing the direction set by two visionary priests, Fathers Cornelius Doherty and Charlie MacDonald. This strong infusion of the Vatican II Church in the Bouvier household was evident by Ginny’s outspokenness on social justice issues in the classroom as early as junior high as well as later when three of Ginny’s siblings chose to attend Boston College, one of the premier Jesuit educational institutions on the cutting edge of advocating social justice in society. Ginny’s uncle Joe, the much younger brother of her mother, visited occasionally from New York and brought the spirit of the Woodstock generation(as a poet, writer, teacher and anti-war protestor) into the Bouvier household to Ginny’s delight. Over the years, the trifecta causes of peace, social justice and human rights became interwoven into their family fabric of core values as one and the same.


In addition to this strong family value orientation, Ginny’s high school Spanish classes opened windows to her on Latin American literature and affairs there during the Cold War when Southern Cone dictatorships were the norm and human rights organizations were rising from the grassroots to challenge them. Her dedication to and talent in learning Spanish (with its many windows on Latin America) also led her to take advanced classes at Yale while in high school. The nearby Yale religious community also resonated with other influential and discordant American voices such as that of William Sloan Coffin, the Yale Chaplain, and a prominent anti-war and civil rights activist. 


During Ginny’s first two years at Wellesley College(1976-78), her mother took a job as administrative assistant to the prolific Catholic writer, Dutch priest Henri Nouwen who was a faculty member of the Yale Divinity School for a decade. Henri became a family friend and Ginny’s mother attended two of his classes at Yale. This charismatic priest had a strong interest in Latin America and authored, Gracias, A Latin American Journey a book on his experiences with the progressive Maryknoll Order working with the underclass in Peru and Bolivia. He also subsequently became a public critic of U.S. policy in Central America among his other numerous priestly callings. 

 
One special event touching Ginny’s life with Henri was when he introduced her to Dr. Joel Filartiga a Paraguayan provincial medical doctor, artist and prominent human rights activist whose son had been tortured to death by the Stroessner regime, the oldest dictatorship in South America at that time. Filartiga had been speaking out against Stroessner and selling his art on U.S. college campuses to support his clinic serving the Paraguayan underclass and Ginny was able to organize a public lecture for him to tell his story to students at Wellesley and sell some of his art work. This passionate pursuit to raise the profile of Latin American human rights on campus also led her to organize Wellesley’s first chapter of Amnesty International and to engage in various similar initiatives with the Wellesley chaplain. Her career-long concern and empathy for the cause of struggling and oppressed women via human rights advocacy led her to work while at Wellesley as a student volunteer at Rosie’s Place, a shelter in Boston for homeless and battered women. This strong identification with women as victims—yet equally so as strong leaders contributing to building society- would be an ongoing thread throughout her life and career in both advocacy along with academic teaching and writing. 


Ginny soaked up a variety of excellent Wellesley academic courses in the humanities and social sciences to both broaden and deepen her knowledge of Latin America. Indeed, according to a Wellesley independent alumni publication, she was their first student ever to have the multi-disciplinary Latin American Studies as her major field for her B.A. degree. In this program, her understanding of Latin American politics received a big boost in classes from a Wellesley grad and faculty member, Merilee Grindle, a political science professor specializing in Latin America who subsequently has had a long career teaching at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.


 It also appears that Wellesley College had a university culture which in a broader sense offered fertile grounds for forming independent-minded young women with a strong sense of personal social responsibility for bringing positive and needed changes into the world.

- Dr. Kevin Healy, CLAS Faculty