Fernando Villalba has always been a determined man—and now he has the documentation to prove it. After an on-again-off-again collegiate career spanning 33 years and three institutions, Villalba walked across the Cintas Center stage in May to accept his bachelor’s degree in management. Three weeks earlier, the University’s department of management and entrepreneurship recognized his dedication by presenting him with the Andrew C. Eustis Persistence Award for extraordinary efforts and persistence in getting a Xavier business degree.
Villalba was born in Bogota, Colombia, but grew up in New Jersey where his collegiate odyssey began in 1972 at William Paterson College. A year later, financial realities dictated a full-time job. After another year at Paterson in 1976, Villalba left education behind until 1986, when he entered the New Jersey Institute of Technology. But by 1988, a promotion involving travel put college by the wayside.
Villalba’s dream refused to die, however. And when Cincinnati Milacron purchased his employer in 1993, Villalba felt sure he would finish his education in the Queen City. So in 2001, he enrolled at the University through the center for adult and part-time students, attending classes on weekends.
Now, with degree in hand, Villalba is looking toward an M.B.A. But he’s also savoring the moment that was so long in coming. “It’s a feeling of joy that cannot really be put into words,” he says. “I cannot describe the magnitude of the impact this has on my life.”