At 82, this civil engineer and former student of Santiago College executes quite unusual activities: she practices water skiing, has jumped on parachute and is an aviator. She has three daughters and seven grandchildren. She devotes most of her time to her family, especially her grandchildren. With them she shares her hobbies, practices sports and talks about life.
“Give a chance to the younger generations, I am too old for this sort of things,” she repeated several times when we phoned her to ask for an interview. She was never quite convinced of wanting to talk about herself; however, after much insistence, we convinced her that her story was worth sharing.
María Artemisa Léniz Regord’s history has always being linked to the Santiago College. First, as a student, then as member of the Alumni Association, that she presided over on two occasions, and subsequently, as member of the Higher Council, that she also presided over twice and where she still participates.
Coming from a family formed by women alone and a school that at the time was for girls only, she began to study civil engineering at Universidad de Chile, a career where women find almost no rivals (there were only five girls studying in the entire Faculty of Engineering) at a time when very few women went to university. She devoted a large part of her professional career to work in design and infrastructure projects. María Artemisa was pioneer of the idea to turn Santiago College into a co-ed institution, project that was materialized in 1972. Additionally, she was always supporting the move of the school to the Los Trapenses Campus, as she pursued the idea that the school had to evolve to continue to deliver state-of-the-art education and keep firm one of the fundamental pillars of the SC.
However, not everything has been work in Artemisa’s life. While she was studying in the university, she met her husband, with whom she has three daughters and seven grandchildren. They call her by the name of “mami” and include her in all their activities, especially sports. She practices water skiing, is a pilot and has even jumped on parachute. “She is a 4-by-4 granny”, says her granddaughter Sofia Bertoni. “Some friends’ mothers tell me ‘How lucky you are that your granny still drives,’” and I think: ‘My granny is a pilot’” (she laughs).
Artemisa is a member of the female pilot association, where there are 20 active pilots, including her. She became a pilot after her youngest daughter was born, so now she has little over 40 years of practice. She flies a couple of times in the month, frequently with her daughter Marcela Bravo - also a pilot- and generally she goes to her holiday house on the Vichuquen lake, but she has flown to Punta Arenas, Arica and Mendoza.
One of the things for which she thanks the school most, which has been one of the main reasons for all she has done, is her strong personality that she acquired thanks to the school. “The education delivered by the SC gives you the tools to know who you are and what you can do. This I say based on my experience, what I have seen and continue to see in my grandchildren who have graduated from SC. Not being fainthearted, but knowing your characteristics and possibilities,” she emphasized.
Which values did SC instill in you that have been most useful for you personally and professionally?
Above all, being tolerant, respectful, persevering has helped me a lot, especially during my university time. If you draw your path based on these principles, you become sort of a leader. I have always considered that it is a privilege to have studied in this school. In my opinion, my parents’ decision was perfect for me. I believe that both my parents and the school gave me a very good education.
For what do you thank the SC most? Friends, excellent education, the English language…?
Absolutely all of them! My school friends are my friends till today and I am constantly encouraging meetings with them. English is fundamental. It has always helped me. You realize that it gets inside you and then it surfaces as a useful tool. In my times, there were many professionals who had to learn English, when all this about management and globalization began. The way of approaching life is also very important.
This has been told to me by several alumni whom I have interviewed. It is a repeated characteristic.
I think so. And it is not taught in the classroom; it is rather part of the philosophy underlying the SC educational project. This is what encourages me to be linked to the school. You see that such important values remain, despite the changes, the male students, the new premises, etc. It has happened to me quite frequently that I have been talking to someone and they have asked me: ‘Did you attend Santiago College?’ ‘Yes, why?’, ‘I notice a special something, and it is a good thing!’
Did you practice sports at school?
Yes, we played speedball, very similar to football but you could take the ball with your hands, also basketball, and I also practiced athletics for some time. I played tennis for a long while, then I took on golf very enthusiastically, and now I practice water-skiing and sailing in Lago Vichuquén. I also love walking and admiring nature.
What is your favorite hobby?
My favorite hobby is being with my grandchildren. I think they are so much fun. I have two professionals: an engineer and an architect, four university students and one school student. Sharing with them is what I like most. I love to talk with them, know what they are doing, what they think. Then, flying, of course, I like it tremendously. With my daughter and a friend, who is also a pilot, we are always planning outings.
We are now in new premises, but the old school remains, which do you think are the roots that should not be lost in the new facilities?
Change always brings uncertainty. I went through all these doubts. As member of the Higher Council, I had to take part in the implementation of this change to Los Trapenses. We found this land when I was chairwoman, and then several years went by until we could build. The school philosophy is here exactly the same as in the previous facilities, because when you move to a new house, your home remains. It was certainly difficult to get used to work in this new building. Many people said: ‘I don’t like that everything is so straight, so modern,’ but you cannot please everyone. It was impossible to build the same building as in Los Leones, and the worst you could do is copying. That place was amazing, but the city had changed and just as our predecessors had the vision to move from Agustinas to Los Leones in 1933, now it was time to think of future generations and leave them an establishment suitable to all necessary requirements in order to deliver an education of excellence.
Which are the SC educational challenges these days?
Being at the forefront of education in the country. Our view must be focused on the outer world, to absorb the experiences of countries with high-level educational systems, so as to give our students tools that will permit them to work in a multicultural and globalized world.