Women’s History Month: Pilar Angeles Garcia

On March 2, 2018, a group of Iowa State University students presented at the 2018 Iowa State Conference on Race and Ethnicity (ISCORE). In their presentation, “Lost Stories: Women of Color at Iowa State University,”the students listed accomplishments of women of color at ISU and encouraged the university to recognize the achievements of women of color who have contributed to the success and innovation of the university. Their session included the story of Pilar Garcia, who had worked at Iowa State in the Department of Food and Nutrition from 1950-1991. I had come across this collection by accident in my first year here as outreach archivist and noted it because Garcia was born in the Philippines, like my mother. In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to put a spotlight on Pilar Garcia and her papers.

Pilar Angeles Garcia was born on November 4, 1926, in Manila, the Philippines. Her father, Gaudencio Garcia, served as a professor of international and political law, and her mother, Maria Paz Angeles Garcia, was a high school biology teacher. She is the second oldest of ten children.

Garcia’s high school education was interrupted by WWII. There is a note she wrote and included in her papers, when describing photographs from her childhood (RS 12/6/53, box 4, folder 2):

All earlier records were destroyed during WWII when our family home burned to the ground.

Pilar Garcia graduated from the University of the Philippines at Manila, in 1949, with a B.S. in pharmacy. During this time she earned the Barbour Scholarship, which sent her to the University of Michigan. This prestigious scholarship celebrated it’s 100th anniversary last year. One year later she earned the Master of Science degree in botany at the University of Michigan.

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Garcia then relocated to lowa State University, where she completed her studies in nutrition and worked as a graduate assistant. After she completed the M .S. and Ph.D., in 1952 and 1955 respectively, she immediately served as research associate in the Department of Food and Nutrition at ISU.

In 1957, Garcia became an assistant professor at ISU and in 1961 she was promoted to associate professor. It was not until 1974 that she was promoted to full professor. Throughout her academic career, Garcia spent her time researching and teaching courses about the effects of nutrition on people, primarily women. In 1978, she took a six-month faculty leave at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos College, Laguna, in order to conduct research on nutritional conditions of the rural, elderly poor. She earned a faculty citation from the lowa State Alumni Association in 1970 and won the Amoco Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award in 1986. Pilar Garcia retired in December 1991. In a letter written by Garcia she stated, in regards to her time at Iowa State, that (RS 12/6/53, box 1, folder 1 ):

Teaching undergraduate courses and interacting with students gave me the greatest joy and satisfaction

To read more about Pilar Garcia’s life and work at ISU, drop by the reading room! We’re open Monday-Friday, 9-5.

8 thoughts on “Women’s History Month: Pilar Angeles Garcia

  1. Pingback: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Pilar Garcia’s Chicken-Pork Adobo | Cardinal Tales

  2. Pingback: Filipino American History Month | Cardinal Tales

  3. Thank you for this reminder of the fine legacy of Dr. Garcia. I still remember her from F&N101. She was one of the most organized professors during my entire undergraduate experience at ISC-ISU. Missing from your story is any current reference to Dr. Garcia’s present status, leaving me to wonder whether she is living or deceased. Perhaps this omission was intentional to respect her privacy. I’m pleased to report my Googling success in locating a phone number for her. We just completed a lovely chat. She’s now 93, sounds bright, and expresses her deep thanks for fulltime caregivers that allow her to continue to live in her Ames home. Her mobility is limited to using a walker. She requested I write to her so she can make a notation in her diary. I think she would enjoy hearing from other former students as well.

  4. Christopher Garcia

    Thanks for writing this! Pilar is my Aunt and I’ve never seen the pictures you have with the article. My cousins also enjoyed reading this. Thanks again!!

  5. Bernadette Garcia

    Yes… thank you from yet another of her many nieces and nephews. Great article and photos! My dad (her youngest brother) and I visited her a few years back and enjoyed touring Reiman Gardens with her. A few years ago I was making small talk with a passenger (I work for Southwest Airlines) and asked to where she was flying. She mentioned that she was flying to Minneapolis but lived in Ames. When I mentioned that my aunt taught nutrition at Iowa State, she was surprised and said she had studied nutrition and asked who was my aunt. When I told her, “Pilar Garcia,” she was absolutely tickled and said, “She was my professor! She used to swim laps every day!” Small world we live in now.

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