Stanford Report, June 13, 2007
BY MICHAEL PEÑA
To the uninitiated, the concept behind the Center for Integrated Systems can seem most perplexing. CIS's website states that "integrated systems refers to complex interactions across hardware and software at several levels of structure, and to semiconductor, electronics and computer systems within the context of real-world applications."
What's not included in that description is a more human platform upon which many of those interactions take place—and that's what Carmen Miraflor provided. As the center's programs and administration manager, she was the beloved nexus of its directors, PhD students and the corporate giants that are CIS's industrial partners.
Twenty-five in all, those partners include Intel, AMD, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Agilent, Toshiba, Hitachi and Panasonic. And almost immediately after CIS Director Richard Dasher sent out an e-mail informing the center's affiliates of Miraflor's death, condolences began streaming in. "She was quite high profile among the CIS member companies," Dasher said. "Within minutes, I was getting e-mails, as well as phone calls, from Europe and Asia."
Miraflor died on May 22 at the age of 67, a little over five months after being admitted into Stanford Hospital for leukemia treatment. Her brother Chu-Chu Miraflor said the actual cause of death was heart failure, perhaps from the rigors of the treatment. She had been on medical leave since first being diagnosed with the disease in January.
Miraflor had been with CIS since its first days. Rick Reis, executive director of the Alliance for Innovative Manufacturing, was the center's founding director, and he recalled hiring Miraflor as his assistant in 1982. Because a primary function of the center is to send doctoral students into industry for recruitment visits and research, Reis said he needed someone who could engage students, get to know them better over the years and, last but not least, be approachable.
"We tend to forget how intimidating the Stanford environment can be, and someone who can help make that entry easier is important," Reis said. "It takes a particular personality and it takes a particular skill, and I don't think it's something you can train for."
Miraflor remembered where students moved after graduating, who they married and which ones had babies on the way—details that Reis said are easily forgotten in the everyday bustle but that nonetheless mean a lot to the center and those affiliated with it.
"I think her overriding skill was just her genuine interest and desire to get to know the people she was engaging with," said Reis, adding that he cherished the friendship he maintained with Miraflor after he left CIS in 1997. "We crafted her job to meet her strengths."
Miraflor's first stint at Stanford was a brief one as an administrator at the Law School. Before that, she was a bank teller and held various other jobs since emigrating from the Philippines in 1971 to pursue a better life. She graduated from the Philippine Women's University in Manila in 1962 with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
She went on to work as a psychologist, first for the government and then for a corporation, until she came to the United States. But she never forgot where she came from, and she sustained a deep commitment to the Filipino American community, off campus and at Stanford.
Miraflor attended events sponsored by the Filipino American Community at Stanford (FACS) for years before becoming an active member about six years ago. She started coordinating art exhibits showcasing the works of Filipino American artists. She invited authors to campus for readings, and for several years, she organized a Fourth of July event at Bechtel International Center that highlighted Filipino culture.
FACS co-chair Myrna Canizares said Miraflor's involvement was especially valuable, given that non-natives at Stanford can sometimes lose sight of their roots, either because of the air of affluence or because they are so dispersed around campus. FACS co-chairs estimate that roughly 150 to 200 Filipinos could be working on campus, and surely hundreds more they haven't tallied at the hospitals.
"She instilled in us a love for our language and our literature—and to be involved in it," Canizares said. "You feel like you are back in the Philippines."
Perhaps Miraflor's grandest ode to Stanford's Filipino community was a 2005 exhibition she coordinated, called "14 artists." The works—mostly displayed at CIS—represented a variety of forms, philosophies and influences, but all with a common foundation in Filipino identity. (For more information, go to http://cis.stanford.edu/~marigros/show45.html.)
"The motivation to showcase Philippine art is largely to raise the visibility of Filipino creativity," Miraflor was quoted as saying in the Philippine News after the exhibit debuted. "We disappear too often in the shadows in just about any endeavor. I thought that by exhibiting works of art by our own kind, we would become more visible to the public eye."
Miraflor also touched the lives of the few Filipino students at Stanford through involvement in PASU, the Pilipino American Student Union. The club dedicated its final show of the year, which culminated in a lively performance by the Filipino dance troupe Kayumanggi, to "Tita Carmen." And for all her contributions, the Asian American Activities Center named her Asian American staffer of the year in 2004.
CarmeñaLuz Yurong Miraflor was born on March 3, 1940, on a small island in the Philippines called Siquijor (pronounced sih-ki-HOR). Lazi, the town where she and her 14 siblings were raised, has a population of about 4,000. Three of Miraflor's brothers also immigrated to the United States, eventually settling in Fremont as well.
In 1984, the family founded a charity that would raise funds to help the poor families of Siquijor, as well as bring together others from the island who came to America. Dasher recalled how Miraflor would even gather up unwanted nonfiction books from the desks of Stanford faculty and send them to Siquijor.
Although the island's literacy rate is high, according to Chu-Chu Miraflor, schools there are hobbled by isolation from what normally happens at schools in more developed areas. "She organized reading clinics for the children and spelling bees," he said. "She organized weeklong workshops, which involved leadership and other training."
Miraflor also volunteered for a Bay Area-based nonprofit called Philippine International Aid and she served as a pro bono consultant to administrators at the University of the Philippines, and especially its College of Engineering, according to Canizares.
One detail Dasher remembers of Miraflor was that she liked to have classical music playing in the background in her office—although her brother said she loved jazz, pop and opera as well. For five years, she spent Friday and Saturday nights volunteering as an usher for the San Francisco Opera. She also was an amateur gardener, and loved ones joked that she was a "wannabe farmer."
Indeed, she had bought several parcels of land back in Siquijor in preparation for retirement, and during annual trips home, she vigorously planted mango and coconut seedlings, according to Canizares. Miraflor also traveled extensively in Europe, Asia and South America.
Of Miraflor's seven surviving siblings, brothers Chu-Chu, Romero and Nemesio live in Fremont. Brother Ranulfo and sisters Zenobia and Socorro live in Siquijor, and brother Regidor lives in Manila.
On Friday, June 15, Dasher will host an event at CIS, beginning at 4 p.m. with a 30-minute memorial in the CIS X-101 Auditorium, honoring Miraflor's life and career. An outdoor reception will follow.
Then the next day, Miraflor's siblings will host a memorial that will be open to all from 3 to 8 p.m. at the Fremont Teen Center, at 39770 Paseo Padre Parkway, in Fremont's Central Park. Chu-Chu Miraflor said his sister has been cremated and had requested that her ashes be taken back to Siquijor.
Anyone wishing to make a donation in Miraflor's name can do so to Greater America Siquijorians Association (GASA), 152 Ferino Way, Fremont, CA 94536. For more information, go to http://siquijor.com/gasa/.
Published in the June 3rd, 2007 issue of the Dumaguete metroPOST©