Blas P. Arroyo reflects on his experiences as a student at NC State and how his education and family have influenced his life.

Interview on 2012-09-20


00:00:00.000 The experience as student body president was just one aspect of being a student here.
00:00:04.869 Had I not had that experience, had I lost that election,
00:00:08.235 my experience would have been very much the same.
00:00:11.394 I gained experiences through that, like I said, special experiences
00:00:15.486 like being an ex officio member of the board of trustees.
00:00:20.804 It added to something in my-and I learned from that experience.
00:00:24.166 But my main learning experiences here were just as a mainstream student, through that.
00:00:32.045 Now the interactions with Dean Hawkins were through the NC Fellows Program,
00:00:37.342 which I also don't remember how I got into that.
00:00:40.210 It was a great program. It was a leadership development program.
00:00:44.734 So I never asked him, how do you pick somebody that comes from a little town that's-?
00:00:52.248 I bet it probably had something to do with the pulp and paper scholarship.
00:00:55.901 It might have had something to do with how I got in an applicant pool.
00:00:59.492 But that NC Fellows Program and the ability to interact with Dean Hawkins
00:01:03.664 probably had the biggest impact,
00:01:07.230 I think, on me as a student and in helping me because he just had a tremendous ability-
00:01:12.035 among others, not to take away.
00:01:14.020 I mentioned Prof. Rogers earlier, and all these people that just listened,
00:01:18.477 and I had to have sounded like a dope a lot of the time,
00:01:24.134 silly questions, especially with as little as I'd been exposed to relatively at that point.
00:01:30.396 all of that collectively added up to an experience that, again,
00:01:34.389 has been a central part of what then followed in terms of the development of my life and career.
00:01:43.538 So I owe a lot to the university, I owe a lot to the people I interacted with here
00:01:49.534 who treated me decently and gave me the time of day and gave me guidance and things of that nature.
00:01:55.458 What I didn't mention before and probably should mention is I came
00:01:58.614 from this little town in north Florida [and my] surname, Arroyo, my father's family had immigrated first from Spain to Cuba
00:02:07.057 and then he and my mother had immigrated to the United States,
00:02:11.871 and he ended up in Palatka.
00:02:15.550 He played baseball in the days before everyone watched everything on television
00:02:20.667 and when Three-A baseball, Two-A baseball was a big deal,
00:02:25.439 but Palatka was the last city that he played baseball in. He was offered a contract,
00:02:29.954 a professional contract, and this is how things change. My older sister was on the way
00:02:35.635 and the money-. He went to work for the paper company
00:02:39.034 because the money wasn't good enough to really support a family for the future and he thought [it was a] better career,
00:02:43.925 so that's what brought us into that circle of being in Palatka, Florida
00:02:49.301 in the shadow of a paper mill.
00:02:51.127 So my parents had immigrated here, they had had an education in Cuba,
00:02:57.767 or at least [part of an] education in Cuba,
00:03:01.324 but that did not translate to the United States.
00:03:04.027 So I also owed them a lot-I guess I want to make sure [I mention that]-
00:03:09.181 in terms of helping to guide me and to encourage me and to pursue, for example, the scholarship, to pursue going out of state.
00:03:16.827 Now to really date myself, I-95 wasn't finished yet.
00:03:22.586 When I started at NC State in 1974 there were
00:03:26.131 large sections of I-95 between Florida and North Carolina that were not completed,
00:03:31.724 and mostly through Georgia you had to drive on two-lane roads and stuff,
00:03:34.293 so we would drive in the middle of the night, about a twelve-hour drive.
00:03:38.936 Once the interstate was finished it's like a nine-hour drive or whatever.
00:03:43.355 But that was a challenge, to go from a small town and again to go
00:03:49.290 that distance, but I think I mentioned before, they came to Raleigh with me for orientation
00:03:53.784 and they felt it too and they were supportive of my coming here.
00:03:59.155 It was a great decision. I've been very fortunate to have
00:04:03.979 fallen into some good decisions along the way, despite poor judgment maybe. [Laughs]
00:04:08.107 But thankfully one of them involved NC State and it was a great result for me.