Marc Chernick, a driving force in the Colombian peace process and the former director of Georgetown University’s Center for Latin American Studies passed away on Wednesday, April 18. Professor Chernick had was attending a peace talk for the furthering of peace and stability in Cali, Colombia when suffered a heart attack.
While Professor Chernick was born in the United States, his late wife was Colombian and in the words of Professor Erick Langer, “Colombia was his adopted homeland.” Langer was director of the Center for Latin American Studies when Professor Chernick arrived in 1999, to be the faculty director of the Masters Program of the center. They later switched roles, which allowed them to continue working closely together in the Center for Latin American Studies.
At Georgetown, Professor Chernick founded the Center for Latin American Studies’ summer programs, the most popular program being in Colombia, at La Universidad de los Andes. Because of his many connections in various departments and sectors of the nation, Professor Chernick was able to find influential internships for the participating students during the program.
Professor Chernick loved his students and was very involved in their lives, watching them grow and follow their passions. He would often have conversations with colleagues and students over his favorite coffee, always listening and offering words of wisdom.
Professor Chernick was not only a well-renowned and respected professor at Georgetown University, but also an important force in the Colombian movement towards a peace process. Professor Matthew Carnes, S.J., the current Director of the Center for Latin American Studies, described Professor Chernick as arguably the most engaged scholar of Colombia anywhere in the US. Professor Carnes emphasized Chernick’s dedication to Colombian peace, which Chernick detailed in his book, Acuerdo Posible. “He was convinced a resolution would be achieved,” Carnes said.
To Professor Chernick, a resolution could only be achieved when two parties found a middle ground. “Professor Chernick had a realism that did not ask people to abandon their strong convictions…he had a belief in common ground when we listen to each other,” Professor Carnes said. He understood that two very different groups would not be able to agree on the exact same terms, but he believed in a compromise.
Professor Carnes argues that, due to Chernick’s influence in Colombian politics, the late professor has helped to make Georgetown a center for peace discussions and conversations. “Professor Chernick made us the place in the US to work on peace processes and conflict resolution, particularly in Colombia,” he said.
According to Professor Erick Langer, Professor Chernick set himself apart from other scholars because he was, “one of those few people who has his life’s work and is able to see it to its fruition.” He used his passion and drive for peace in Colombia to put a plan into motion, forever changing the history of the nation. Professor Carnes added, “Almost all of the people mourning his loss say that it is important for us to keep living in his legacy and commitment to peace and justice and resolution.”
A memorial for Professor Marc Chernick was held on Friday, April 27 in Riggs Library. At the memorial, people who knew Professor Chernick spoke fondly of him and how much he would be missed, not only by the Georgetown community, but also by those around the world whom he touched through his efforts towards a peaceful resolution in Colombia.