Late Lecturer’s Family Await UCSD Response

Family and friends of UCSD Linguistics lecturer Henry Acejo — who was killed in Tijuana on Dec. 18, are disappointed from the lack of response from the UCSD community.

Acejo passed away in his Tijuana home, where he was found with multiple stab wounds. Mexican authorities said he died shortly after 11 p.m.

“The tragic death of former UCSD Filipino Heritage Language instructor Henry Acejo has received numerous national and international news coverage,” alumnus and friend Ernald Macaraeg wrote in an e-mail. “Yet, the UCSD administration and linguistics department has not issued any form of official statement, mass student body e-mail or sent a message of condolence to the Acejo family and friends.”

According to UCSD spokesperson Christine Clark, it is not university protocol to release a public statement regarding faculty deaths. Statements regarding loss of members of the UCSD community are normally reserved for chancellors or other administrative faculty who have passed.

Although few details have been released regarding possible suspects in the case, investigators suspect that two men seen with Acejo hours before his body was discovered could have a connection to his murder.

The investigators also said Acejo’s sister had sent him $1,500 to come to the Philippines for Christmas. Speculation has been raised about whether this money could have been the reason for his murder. His autopsy results have not been released.

One of 12 children, Acejo lived in Zona del Rio, Tijuana, and sent more than $1,000 a month to his family in the Philippines.

The educator taught at three San Diego area colleges. He was a Filipino Heritage Program lecturer at UCSD from 2006 to 2008, teaching Filipino Communication and Culture for beginners and advanced learners.

Acejo was a linguistics professor at SDSU, where he founded the first Filipino Program in 2004. He also taught ESL classes at Southwestern and Mid-City College.

Atilio V. Alicio — a fellow UCSD Heritage Program instructor who worked closely with Acejo —  has been in contact with Acejo’s family in the Philippines and Hong Kong, and has expressed frustration with the lack of response from the UCSD community.

All the universities Acejo taught at — except UCSD — have held memorial services in response to his death.

Twelve days after his death, SDSU’s Department of Linguistics and Asian/ Middle Eastern Languages released a statement mourning Acejo’s passing.

“Acejo’s death is an immense loss to the department … and to the university,” Arabic Professor Ghada Osman said in the statement. “He was a very popular instructor whose creativity, knowledge, hard work and dedication to his students as a professional were deeply striking. His upbeat personality, ubiquitous smile, sense of humor and care for others as a person were extraordinary.”

Southwestern students also set up a Facebook page called “Celebrating the Life of Professor Henry Acejo.” Students also set up a fund to aid in funeral expenses for the family. Mid-City College is thinking about starting a scholarship under his name.

According to Alicio, the family is still awaiting a personal response from UCSD to express condolences.

“[He was a] kid brother, colleague and a friend,” Alicio, who spoke at his memorial service on Dec. 28 at Mid-City College, said. “Just having Henry around made you feel better, whatever the challenge, and we all got to know his positive disposition and ever-ready words of encouragement. The UCSD community lost a great educator.”

Acejo fought to keep the Heritage Program alive at UCSD, encouraging students to join and play an active role in the community. He believed in the importance of the Filipino legacy and inspired his students to feel the same.

“Henry was approachable and personal, often taking students out to participate in his favorite pastime, karaoke,” Macaraeg said.

A viewing was held for family and friends on Dec. 28. Acejo was laid to rest in San Mateo, Rizal in the Philippines on Jan. 16.