Ana Sisnett honored posthumously

Allie Kolechta

One of UT’s many libraries now bears the name of a recently deceased UT alumna, after a dedication ceremony Wednesday evening.

The ceremony officially named the Gender and Sexuality Library in the Student Activity Center for Ana Sisnett, an Austin-based writer, artist and activist. She was born in Panama in 1952 and came to the United States in 1965 for her education. Sisnett died on Jan. 13, 2011, at 56 years old after suffering from ovarian cancer for three years.

Several of Sisnett’s family members were present at the dedication ceremony, including her son, granddaughter and Priscilla Hale, her partner of 10 years. Sisnett touched the lives of many but was always humble, Hale said.

“Ana didn’t like a lot of accolades and a lot of light shined on her, but I think she’s alright with this,” she said. “I really think this is one of those moments where she’s like, ‘this is alright; this is good.’”

Sisnett’s mother Lucille Sisnett could not be at the dedication ceremony but sent Hale with a speech to read in her place. In the speech, she noted that she taught Sisnett not to discuss her accomplishments and to be humble. Many of Sisnett’s accomplishments were not made apparent to her until the memorial service held after Sisnett’s death, Lucille Sisnett wrote.

Sisnett shared her love easily with many people, including communities that benefitted from her activism, her family and her friends, said Paul Bonin-Rodriguez, assistant professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance. Bonin-Rodriguez met Sisnett through a mutual friend and became close with her after being introduced to her writing, he said.
“Ana always greeted me with the brightened eyes of recognition and warmth, the kind of look I thrive on receiving from close friends,” he said.

Sisnett was a close friend and mentor to many on UT’s campus, said Courtney Morris, assistant instructor in the Department of Anthropology.

“Ana always made me feel like I had a right to believe in myself,” Morris said. “She named me ‘writer’ before I had the courage to give myself the name. She believed in my ability to create.”

Sisnett accepted her friends the way that they were, and even though they have to say goodbye for now, her family can take comfort in her legacy and in the number of people whose hearts Sisnett touched, Morris said.

“I suppose, in a way, her dying doesn’t change a thing,” Morris said. “I can still sing for her, read her poems, talk to her about my grandmother. She is eternal now and present everywhere.”

Printed on September 22, 2011 as: Activist alumna honored in library naming