With great sadness, we mourn the passing of Dan Alba, the founding director of Facing History and Ourselves in Los Angeles, who died on December 2, 2020.
Dan gave so much to Facing History, and to educators across Southern California. His involvement with Facing History began 30 years ago as a social science teacher at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, the school where he attended. In 1994, Dan left the classroom to open Facing History’s LA office in the basement of his home.
He partnered with Karen Sulzberger, founding board chair, to help build the LA Advisory Board. His entrepreneurial and relationship-building skills laid the foundation for the wide network of support and program that is Facing History today.
But Dan never really left the classroom. His first priority throughout his long career was the wellbeing of teenagers. He was a teacher’s teacher, adored and respected by generations of educators and school leaders across Los Angeles.
Dan had a special ability to connect with people and his circle of friends was wide and diverse. Those who knew Dan loved his sharp wit, passion for social justice, and firm belief in the power of relationships. To those he mentored, he modeled empathetic leadership, the healing nature of humor, and living one’s values.
Dan took great pride in his hometown of Los Angeles, and especially Boyle Heights. He delighted in touring visitors around LA, pointing out not the typical celebrity sights, but the rich history and culture he loved so much. Dan was also well known for his appreciation of excellent food, and his insider knowledge of ‘hidden gem’ neighborhood restaurants.
Over the last few months, Dan combined his artistic skills and humor with his own moral outrage and created daily political cartoons (available at Dan’s Cartoon site). Dan’s insight is a good guide for us all:
"Humor connects us, binds us, humanizes us, and gives us permission to be ourselves. Humor transcends the barriers of isolation and loneliness, summoning laughter, smiles, and giggles during the best and worst of times.”
Facing History sends our deep sympathies to Dan’s partner, Carole Chacon; to his son, Diego Alba; to his father, Joseph Alba; and to his siblings and extended family. We invite you to share special memories of Dan in the comments. Details about a memorial fund in support of Diego will be forthcoming.
May Dan’s memory be a blessing--