San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Are My Grandfather’s Contributions Remembered?

I am writing to you in hopes of learning whether my grandfather, Joseph Arthur Elmer, is still acknowledged in Costa Rica for his contributions to vocational education there in the late 1950s and early 1960s when he was employed on behalf of the U.S. government to assist in Operación Reconstrucción (Operation Reconstruction).

I have searched many Web sites about the history of education in Costa Rica, and have found no mention of him.

Any information that you are able to share with me would be very much appreciated.

Bruce Elmer

El Cerrito, California, USA

The Tico Times was able to find two institutions where Joseph Arthur Elmer lives on as a vocational education legend.

The library at the country’s second oldest vocational school, MonseñorSanabriaVocationalHigh School, which opened in August 1953 in Desamparados, a southern suburb of San José, is named Arthur Elmer in honor of the contributions he made to this institution.

Although no plaque or sign displays the library’s name, Elmer’s photo hangs on the library’s wall because he donated its first books, according to librarian Helena Rivas. Rivas said she often explains this to student groups that visit the library, which houses 3,000 books.

Costa Rica’s oldest vocational school, the Vocational High School of Heredia, north of San José, also honors Elmer’s work.

“He is a part of (the school’s) history. He exists here,” said Mariana Chaves, the school’s public relations coordinator.

This year, the school is celebrating its 50th anniversary as the Vocational High School of Heredia, and Elmer’s name has come up in many ceremonies throughout the year, she told The Tico Times.

He has been venerated both in speeches and writings narrating the history of the institution, which was founded in July 1953 as the School of Arts and Occupations, said Chaves,who has worked at the school for 35 years – more than any other employee.

She said a framed photo of Elmer used to hang inside the school’s library. When the library was moved to another location two years ago, the photo was transferred to the administrative offices.

Chaves said she has a box full of old photos that might contain more photos of Elmer.

Jesús OcañaRojasTechnicalProfessionalHigh School in the province of Alajuela preserves no trace of Elmer, even though the September 1960 issue of Américas magazine features him as one of its founders.

The school, originally opened at the former downtown Alajuela military headquarters in 1959, was transferred to another location near the neighboring town of Canoas in the late 1970s, according to German Vinicio Aguilar, director of the administrative department of the Education Ministry’s Alajuela branch.

The former military headquarters now houses a museum that honors national hero Juan Santamaría.


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