Theo R. Crevenna, whose career with the Organization of American States and the University of New Mexico’s Latin American & Iberian Institute spanned over 50 years, died on June 24. He was 93.
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Crevenna moved to Switzerland in 1934 with his family to get away from the Nazis, and then to the United States, first arriving in New York.
“A friend of the family sponsored him so he could be allowed into the U.S.,” said his son, Thomas Andrew Crevenna.
He graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1942 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, and the same year he married Glenda L. Berry. Then he got a master of arts in Inter-American Affairs, also from UNM, in 1945, being, according to his son, either the first person or one of the first people to graduate with such a degree from that school.
Within a year of getting his master’s degree, he moved to the Washington, D.C., area and began a three-decade career with the Organization of American States, holding leadership positions in the departments of Cultural Affairs, Economic and Social Affairs, and the Office of Fellowships and Training. His responsibilities included meeting with presidents and cabinet ministers of almost every Latin American country.
“He was extremely successful at what he did at the OAS,” his son said. “He worked his way up pretty close to the top by the time he was done.”
While working there, he was also part of the founding of the Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies, one of the oldest Latin American academic organizations in the world, at UNM in 1953.
During his tenure with OAS, he and his wife, now deceased, adopted two children, Thomas Andrew Crevenna and his sister, Elizabeth Frances Ahola, both shortly after they were born.
After working at OAS, Crevenna returned to New Mexico – this time making his home in Santa Fe – in 1979 and became deputy director of the Latin American & Iberian Institute at UNM, a position he held until 2004.
While at UNM, he was alsÂ¶o a board member of the ACLU of New Mexico for about 30 years, right until he died, making him the ACLU New Mexico chapter’s longest serving board member, according to Peter Simonson, executive director of the ACLU of New Mexico.
“He was one of the most vocal and respected members on the board, and I would say he didn’t shy from raising issues that were either awkward or difficult to address,” Simonson said.
“He was always the person who would try to even out differences of opinion among board members and arrive at some compromise solution.”
He was also committed to immigrant rights, supporting the creation of a regional center for border rights in Las Cruces, and creating a legislative committee of volunteers who traveled to Santa Fe to read and analyze bills, Simonson said.
After serving as deputy director of the LAII, Crevenna, who lived in Corrales at the time of his death, became UNM’s special adviser to the vice president for research and economic development, a position he held from 2006 to 2008.
Crevenna is survived by his two children and three grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held for him today at 10 a.m. in the UNM Alumni Memorial Chapel, followed by a reception at the Latin American & Iberian Institute, at 801 Yale NE.
Theo R. Crevenna