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For Dr. N

We lost Dr. Ángel David Nieves in December 2023. It is a tremendous loss for the university as a collective, for the field, and for humans knowing another human. Dr. Nieves joined Northeastern University in 2020 as the Dean’s Professor of Public and Digital Humanities and Professor of Africana Studies. He was truly a transdisciplinary scholar- an architect, public historian, and archivist, working at the intersections of race, gender and sexuality. Dr. Nieves was renowned in his field for cutting-edge scholarship in digital history and experimental online platforms.

Throughout his NU career, Dr. Nieves held leadership roles, including but not limited to becoming the Director of the Graduate Program in Public History, Director of Public Humanities, and Director of the Humanities Center. He was the Lead Co-PI on a $500K Planning Grant from the Mellon Foundation for the ground-breaking project Reckonings: A Local History Platform for the Community-Archivist. He continued his work on his digital book project, Apartheid Heritage(s): A Spatial History of South Africa’s Black Townships. He co-directed the NEH funded Summer Institute, “Engaging Geography in the Humanities,” featured in Northeastern Global News. He co-edited a volume of critical essays charting the diverse territory of digital humanities scholarship, “People, Practice, Power: Digital Humanities outside the Center.” He worked tirelessly for the Humanities Center Fellowship program, dedicating time, resources, and encouragement over the years.

But more than that, Dr. Nieves is/was/has always been a source of support and encouragement. I still can’t bring myself to use past tense. Although I studied sociology (such a dreadful field, compared to history, as I was always told), he pulled me into the fold. We did not always see eye to eye, but I became a member of the crew.

After first meeting spring 2021, I quickly registered for his fall introduction to public history course, with the hopes of obtaining a certificate in digital humanities. My digital skills proved wanting. The Mavis Beacon typing program only took me so far. Nevertheless, Dr. Nieves’s belief in me did not waver. In class, he gave me thoughtful remarks on my assignments. “I am not at all surprised by this submission”, he wrote once, meaning it was true to who I was and what I saw as important for public memory. He saw me and other students. Dr. Nieves was among the first at Northeastern to encourage me to bring my artistic pursuits to the fore of my scholarly endeavors.

He served as my external committee member for my first field statement (a sociology department required exam). He wanted me to explore poetry workshops. I worked on the Reckonings project and have been blessed to be a research fellow. He encouraged me to speak what was on my heart and mind. I cried in his office for so many reasons. Dr. Nieves always had a tissue, kind word, cheeky joke and encouraging ancedote for me. Even now, I want to return to his office and tell him how I feel. To thank him.

My words cannot begin to express my grief, gratitude and respect for a wonderful teacher. I will miss you, Dr. Nieves. We will miss you. Thank you for all of it. Rest well.

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