For more than 15 years, Jennifer Hesketh Aviles, a longtime UA supporter and Tucson activist, has helped fund a history scholarship to honor her father, William Howard Hesketh, a chemical engineer who adored history.
William Hesketh, a New Jersey native, began his career with Standard Oil in 1941. After honorable discharge from the U.S Army Air Force (1943-1945), he continued with ESSO Research and Engineering, then Standard Vacuum, and finally Mobil Oil, which took him, his wife, and three children to Colombia, India, the Philippines, Australia, Japan, and France.
Bill believed in cultural immersion, so Jennifer and her siblings attended the local schools rather than the American schools offered on the compound. In South America, Jennifer went to a school where 12 grades were taught in two rooms. In India, where Jennifer attended an all-girls school in Bombay, she had her first exposure to racism when she was not allowed to bring a friend to the compound swimming pool because of her dark skin. In the Philippines, Jennifer went to school with kids whose parents worked at embassies from all over the world. During Jennifer’s college years, her Japanese boyfriend couldn’t bring her to his house because she was a gaijin, or a foreigner. All said, Jennifer found her eclectic upbringing fantastic.
At the age of 54, Bill retired to Tucson with his wife, Marguerite. Travelled out by that point, he preferred to indulge in his love of golf, swimming, genealogy, and history. Bill was a member of the Sons of the Revolution and the Huguenot Society. He frequented the UA and public libraries. He also read voluminously and particularly enjoyed historical fiction and the history of the United States.
After Bill died in 1999 at the age of 82, Marguerite and Jennifer decided to create scholarships in his name in the UA Honors College (for engineering students) and in the UA Department of History, one to reflect his occupation and the other his avocation.
Jennifer said it seemed obvious to honor her father by donating to the UA, because throughout his life, Bill emphasized the value of education to his children.
“My grandmother was deserted when my father was a little boy, so she had to open a boarding house to make ends meet,” said Jennifer. Later, Bill’s stepfather insisted he go to college, which Bill credited with his ability to succeed in his career. Bill told all three of his children that they would go to college.
Bill’s enthusiastic endorsement of the value of lifelong learning was also reflected in his membership in numerous rotary clubs and school boards.
Jennifer’s history has led her to champion student scholarships; women’s and girls’ opportunities; and issues related to diversity, leadership, and social justice.
Following her international upbringing, Jennifer earned her B.A. in business administration from Simmons College in Boston. She moved to Tucson with her first husband, who was a professor at the UA. After her divorce, Jennifer began working for the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences as a “secretary receptionist” and then advanced into positions of increasing responsibility, including serving as program coordinator at the UA for the Commission on the Status of Women and the Diversity Action Council, which she says was her dream job.
Jennifer’s lifelong interest in women’s rights was reinvigorated during a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend her son’s graduation from Georgetown. At the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Jennifer noticed that much of the art wasn’t signed. She learned that prior to the 19th century, many women didn’t put their names on their art, or they just wrote their initials or a man’s name. Jennifer felt the injustice of this, so when she learned about the Women’s Plaza of Honor project at the UA, created by the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, she jumped at the opportunity to get involved. She ended up becoming co-chair of the executive committee of the Women’s Plaza of Honor and chair of the Plaza’s design and construction committee. Her husband, Enrique Aviles, honored her in the Plaza with a tree in her name.
Jennifer’s time working at and for the UA makes her very familiar with student needs and their struggles to cobble together funds for tuition, so she is happy to contribute to a scholarship that gives them a boost.
“I have a real soft spot in my heart for this university and the students,” said Jennifer.
Meet the Scholars
In recent years, the William H. Hesketh Scholarship has been devoted to enabling doctoral candidates to travel abroad.
“History is a discipline that increasingly takes a global perspective on nearly every critical topic, so the support for international travel provided for by the William H. Hesketh Scholarship is invaluable as we train students for professions in and out of academia,” said Kevin Gosner, head of the Department of History.
Here are some of the recent projects and students funded by the scholarship:
Luis researches religion and politics in Mexico. The Hesketh Scholarship, which he received in 2013, helped with his travel expenses to Mexico City, where he conducted archival research on how the 1910 revolution and its resulting regime created new conceptions of justice and citizenship.
Kathryn received a Hesketh Scholarship in 2012 to support her research in Bolivia. Her dissertation examines how ideas about race, and the proper place of Bolivia’s indigenous people within the nation, influenced the development of obstetric medicine and maternal-infant care programs in the country.
The Hesketh Scholarship allowed Mary to travel to England to find archival materials related to her dissertation, “Controversy Surrounding 17th-Century English Coffeehouses.” Some of the material she examined included 17th-century English manuscripts, pamphlets on coffee and coffeehouses, broadside ballads, religious treatises, marriage advice literature, court trials, cookbooks, and travel accounts.
Jamie used her scholarship to fund her most recent archival research trip to London. Jamie studies the history of the British pornography trade between 1900 and 1939 and also examines the links between British pornographers and their counterparts in Western Europe, the U.S., and the colonies.
Robin received the Hesketh Scholarship twice: in 2011, to help fund her summer research in Panama City, and, in 2012, to allow her to travel to Vancouver to present a paper at the Social Science History Association. Robin’s dissertation is about how the laborers from the West Indies who helped build the Panama Canal influenced Panama’s development.
This article was featured in the 2015-2016 issue of SBS Developments.