Iker Ortiz Hidalgo ’17 Pairs Classics and Football for Well-Rounded Experience Posted on August 4th, 2016 by

Iker Ortiz Hidalgo '17 spent the summer on an archaeological dig in Portugal.

Growing up in Cancun, Mexico, Iker Ortiz Hidalgo had no idea that he would one day attend college in a place that gets as cold as Minnesota. But looking back, the Gustavus Adolphus College senior is glad that he did. His experiences on the hill have allowed him to discover his vocation, play on the Golden Gusties football team, and – most recently – to spend the summer on an archaeological dig in Portugal after winning the College’s Kehm Smith Award.

Ortiz Hidalgo, right, with his summer archaeology team.

Ortiz Hidalgo, right, with his summer archaeology team.

The award, given by Emily Kehm Smith ’06 and her husband, Austin, covers the cost of tuition for a Gustavus classics major to participate in the Santa Susana Excavation Project in Redondo, Portugal.

“I’ve always had an interest in archaeology, so this has been a great opportunity to get perspective on both digging and conservation,” Ortiz Hidalgo said. “Immediately after I was selected, Emily and Austin reached out to say congratulations and introduce themselves. I’m incredibly thankful for their generosity.”

On a typical day, the archaeological team arrives around 7 a.m. and digs until early afternoon on the site, which consists of an ancient Roman villa. According to the Santa Susana website, the complex is contributing to modern understanding of the processes of colonization and settlement in the now-Portuguese corner of the Roman Empire. Ortiz Hidalgo and other students learned surveying techniques, proper handling and processing procedures for artifacts, and how to accurately record the villa’s exposed areas and features. The project is led by Dr. Emma Ljung (Princeton University) and Dr. Joey Williams (University of Central Oklahoma).

Iker Ortiz Hidalgo '17

Iker Ortiz Hidalgo ’17

“I’ve met great scholars, great professors, great archaeologists, and great people this summer,” Ortiz Hidalgo said. “The opportunity has been very meaningful for me.”

As a classics major, Ortiz Hidalgo studies the foundations of western culture in the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome by analyzing languages, literature, history, theater, art, and philosophy. It’s a major he says he’s unlikely to have pursued if he didn’t choose Gustavus.

“I’m having a completely different college experience than my friends who decided to attend Mexican universities,” Ortiz Hidalgo explained. “I might have ended up studying just to find a career instead of finding a major that fulfills my academic interests.”

Ortiz Hidalgo first learned about Gustavus from Peter Nyhus ’60, a retired financial executive who splits his time between Cancun and Minnesota. Nyhus is involved in the American football community in Cancun and encouraged Gustavus head football coach Peter Haugen to bring his team to Mexico on a service trip. After being exposed to the Gustavus team at a coaching clinic and watching them play in a scrimmage against a local team, Ortiz Hidalgo became serious about attending Gustavus.

As he prepares to enter his senior season as a key returner at defensive end and outside linebacker, Ortiz Hidalgo is thankful that Nyhus encouraged him to choose Gustavus. “Peter Nyhus has been like a second father figure to me,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz Hidalgo (#26) is a key member of the Golden Gustie defense.

Ortiz Hidalgo (#26) is a key member of the Golden Gustie defense.

Head coach Peter Haugen is grateful too. “Iker came in from another country without knowing many people or what to expect from the culture and he’s thrived here,” Haugen said. “He’s considered to be a leader on the team and a mentor to our younger guys.”

“There’s been a lot of support from the Gustavus community since day one,” Ortiz Hidalgo said. “I’m grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been provided by Austin and Emily Kehm Smith, my coaches and teammates, Peter Nyhus, and my professors.”

“Iker is a thoughtful young man who looks for opportunities and works hard to take advantage of them,” Haugen said. “I see him continuing to grow into someone who will do great things in life and positively impact others.”


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