Book award granted to SDSU sleuth

by Camille Lozano

Courtesy of NewsCenter

San Diego State anthropology professor Seth Mallios was honored this summer at the San Diego Book Awards.

Mallios received the Best Local Interest award for his book “Hail Montezuma! The Hidden Treasures of San Diego State.” The award was given on June 22 at SDBA’s annual ceremony after three judges scored his book the highest ranking in the local interest category, President of SDBA Kate Gurney said.

“The San Diego Book Awards receives many excellent books in the local interest category, including many with a very specific focus or niche topic about Southern California. We hope to increase attention to such local interest books through recognition of excellence in our annual contest,” Gurney said.

The book, which chronicles the untold history of SDSU, examines artifacts and stories brought to light through the “digging up” of various spots around campus as well as memorabilia donated by of the SDSU community and alumni.

Mallios has wanted to examine the campus underground since interviewing for his position in 2000.

“I told the faculty I wanted to dig up campus and they were very surprised. They didn’t believe anything was here,” Mallios said. “So I wanted to find the history … through artifacts.”

In 2004, two Works Progress Administration murals were uncovered in Hardy Tower and were then salvaged and placed in Love Library. The find legitimized Mallios’ claims and gave him traction as the community gained interest in helping to uncover SDSU’s past.

Alumni and both former and current faculty and staff contributed to the book by submitting memorabilia such as ticket stubs from President John Kennedy’s 1963 campus commencement address and offering their personal stories that were connected to the discovered artifacts.

In one particular case, Mallios described how a WPA plaque stolen from Aztec Bowl was returned to his office late one night with “a note explaining that the reason (the plaque) was returned to me was because they were so excited that someone cared about their history.”

In addition to the local contributions, the Special Collections and University Archives aided Mallios extensively by providing historic photos and The Daily Aztec issues dating back to the school’s opening in 1897.

Special Collections Division Head Robert Ray explained the significance of Mallios’ book as a careful documentation of the “extraordinary web of inter-connection” that can be found in the relationships made at SDSU in the past and present.

“In order to communicate everyday relationships, to find out what it was like back then, you need to have the ordinary—the documentation on a day-to-day basis. With this book, Seth Mallios has made the ordinary extraordinary,” Ray said.

Mallios, who is currently working on his next book detailing the Rock and Roll history of SDSU, is elated to receive the award for Best Local Interest publication. He hopes that the book will “generate interest and excitement, and promote active conversation about SDSU’s history.”