About Southwestern Mission Research Center

Our History

Founded in 1965, the Southwestern Mission Research Center is an all-volunteer, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to the cause of supporting Spanish Borderlands research and education. Our mission tours provide a means of introducing people to the history and culture of the Southwest Borderlands.

At the instigation of the Rev. Charles W. Polzer, S.J., a group of people got together in 1965 and the result was the incorporation of the Southwestern Mission Research Center. The first Board of Directors included Dr. Bernard (Bunny) Fontana; Rev. Charles W. Polzer, S.J.; Rev. Kieran McCarty, O.F.M.; Walter Fathauer; George Eckhard; Mrs. Byron Ivancovich; Dr. Charles Di Peso; Dr. Arthur Woodward; Dr. Ronald Ives; Dr. William Wasley; James M. Murphy; and Rev. John Bannon, S.J. A logo was designed by Don Bufkin and Charlie Polzer, and the SMRC-Newsletter began in 1967.

The SMRC-Newsletter/SMRC Revista

This is what Bunny Fontana has to say about the newsletter origins:

I can only remember that my motivation for becoming involved with the newsletter concerned the fact that a few scholars had simultaneously published translations into English of the same Spanish documents, and had done so without knowing anyone else had been working on the same thing. It occurred to me that a newsletter informing others of what was going on in Spanish Borderlands studies would head such duplicated efforts off at the pass. Given there was (and is) so much to be done, it seemed a terrible waste to see people essentially duplicating one another’s efforts.

The early issues of the SMRC-Newsletter, those from the first in February 1967 until March 1988, appeared occasionally, which meant they came out on no particular schedule. In many of those years there were three issues rather than four. Finally, in March 1988, it settled down to a quarterly with issues appearing, or at least being dated, each March, June, September, and December. Charlie Polzer and I shared the writing duties for the first ten or more years.

Tour proceeds and membership dues also help to support publication of the SMRC Revista, a newsletter/magazine offering news, feature articles, and reviews. Individual membership starts at $25 a year, and is open to anyone interested in Southwest borderlands history and culture. Visit the Membership section to learn more.

Board of Directors

Our volunteer Board of Directors meets quarterly on the third Saturday of the month. Election of officers takes place at the first meeting of the year in January.

  • Marcellus Rusk, President
  • Fr. Gregory Adolf, Vice President
  • Monica Young, Secretary/Treasurer
  • Anita Badertscher
  • Steven Baumann
  • Gail Bornfield
  • Dale Brenneman
  • Michael Brescia
  • David Carter
  • Allen Dart
  • Starr Herr-Cardillo
  • Alex La Pierre
  • Rocio La Pierre
  • Wendy Lotze
  • Nicole Mathwich
  • Robert Vint

Mission Tours

What has become SMRC’s signature Kino Mission Tours began in 1974, the idea of Tucsonan Lea Ramirez Ward, who originally organized the Sonoran trips as a fund-raising endeavor of the League of Mexican American Women and the Tucson Museum of Art League. Two years later, when the leagues turned to other projects, SMRC began sponsoring the church visits with assistance from Lea, who continued to be a major factor in their success until she finally retired from the SMRC board in 2007.

Another important early contributor to the tours’ success was Dr. Charles Polzer, S.J., one of the founders of SMRC. He was a frequent lecturer on the original tours and continued in that role after SMRC became responsible for arranging and conducting them.

Proceeds from the various mission tours enable us to sponsor important scholarship on a broader level, assist with publications, and promote education, as well as engage in cooperative restoration projects with the mission communities. Visit the Projects section to learn more about some of our current and past projects.