Creating New Knowledge
Daniel J. Gelo
Dr. Gelo dedicated to preserving Native American history
For over thirty years, Dr. Daniel Gelo has studied the culture and community of the Native American people. Gelo, dean in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts at UTSA, is one of the most sought after Indian experts in the country. He has slept in their homes, eaten at their tables and even participated in some of their most sacred ritual ceremonies.
“A lot of the people who I have spoken with were elders of the tribe and they have a lot of knowledge that we want to preserve," says Gelo. "And since I ask my colleagues in the college to excel in research, it’s really important for me that I stay active in research myself.”
A conservationist of all things Native American, Gelo’s main area of expertise and study is the Comanche Tribe, a group consisting of over 15,000 members that once ranged in Texas and is now based in Lawton, Okla.
His interest was first piqued by his mentor, Rutgers University professor William K. Powers. Admiring Powers' groundbreaking studies of the Sioux Tribe, Gelo asked how he could begin something similar with another tribe. That’s when Powers sent him to the Comanche Tribe, where he fell in love with the people and opportunity to chronicle their history.
That was in 1982; today Gelo continues to remain active in his research efforts and shares his findings with the local and worldwide community.
“The Comanche people really welcomed me into their homes,” says Gelo, who has been with UTSA since 1988. “I also work with the tribal government on projects such as their Native language dictionary."
In 2013, Gelo was appointed the Stumberg Distinguished University Chair in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts. Established by San Antonio native and philanthropist Mary Pat Stumberg, the endowment was also enhanced by a matching gift from H-E-B. A distinguished chair is among the highest accolades awarded to deans and outstanding faculty to recognize their work. Such positions are crucial to the university’s efforts to recruit and retain highly qualified professors, researchers and administrators.
Since receiving the endowment, Gelo has been able to advance his research efforts on Native Americans. Most recently, he joined forces with Dr. Christopher J. Wickham, Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at UTSA. Together the duo is researching the relationship between the Comanches and the German settlers in Texas.
Aside from supporting his own research initiatives, the Stumberg Endowment has also helped Gelo fund a variety of student and faculty resources including workshops, guest lectures, student scholarships and student work study positions in the college’s new digital archiving lab.
"Mrs. Stumberg really cares about UTSA students," says Gelo. "Her generous gift has not only helped me with my research, but thanks to the endowment, I'm able to sponsor a lot of really important activities around campus."
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