Former U.S. Ambassador Sichan Siv appeared at the Texas iSchool on Dec. 1 to mark the dedication of a newly updated student lounge named for his late wife, Martha Pattillo Siv.
Mrs. Siv, who passed away on Dec. 14, 2016, was an alumna, friend and Advisory Council member of the School of Information. Funded by a gift from Ambassador Siv, the Martha Lee Pattillo Siv Doctoral Student Lounge provides space for PhD students to study, read, and engage with their peers.
"Martha was one of the warmest souls I know, and also one of the most generous," said Cassie Alvarado, the school's director of development and alumni relations. "We are very honored Ambassador Siv chose the iSchool and the doctoral student lounge as the space to honor Martha’s legacy."
Mrs. Siv would have celebrated her birthday on Dec. 1, the date of the dedication. A native of Pampa in the Texas Panhandle, she was a Plan II graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, receiving an undergraduate degree in French. She later earned a master's degree in library and information science from UT Austin. Embarking on a career in which she traveled the world for the United Nations, Mrs. Siv spoke six languages and visited more than 60 countries to help develop library and information sciences for UN agencies.
After traveling extensively around the world, Mrs. Siv founded South China Seas, an import business that sold handicrafts made by women in developing countries in order to help them gain economic independence. In 1977, she met Ambassador Siv, a native of Cambodia, who had immigrated to the United States following his escape from Pol Pot's reign of terror. They married in 1983.
"When I came here, I didn't know anybody," Ambassador Siv said. "Martha opened new horizons for me. She was a giver and the ultimate networker, bringing people together and making friends with everyone. She is the perfect combination of brain and beauty, of class and charm." The couple entered politics in 1988 when Ambassador Siv volunteered on George H.W. Bush's presidential campaign. He was appointed as the president's deputy assistant in 1989, and from 2001–2006 he served as a U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
After moving to San Antonio, Mrs. Siv served on the iSchool Advisory Council for four years until 2016. She was eager to give back to the school, which she credited in providing her with the confidence and skills to pursue fascinating careers in the library and information fields throughout the globe, from New York to Paris and Bangkok, Thailand, her husband noted, adding that Mrs. Siv would have been incredibly proud of her sponsorship of the doctoral student lounge.
“Martha is the ultimate altruist. She is truly the model of a good human being,” Ambassador Siv said. “With this dedication, we are making Martha’s legacy more permanent.”