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PROFILE: Sour Economy Sparks New Career Path

A long-time resident of Springfield Township, Luis Gonzalez, 52, turned the economic downturn into an opportunity to begin a new career. He recently completed his bachelor's degree in Spanish and is pursuing further studies at UC.

Date: 6/2/2003
By: Marianne Kunnen-Jones
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Dottie Stover
UC ingot A downturn in the economy turned out to be a good excuse for 52-year-old Luis Gonzalez to finish something he had postponed for the last 27 years – his baccalaureate degree at the University of Cincinnati. The long-time Springfield Township resident also is turning his new-found leisure time into a new career and a living lesson for his three children.

Luis Gonzalez has finished his bachelor
Luis Gonzalez has finished his bachelor's degree in Spanish and hopes to become a professor

The former sales and marketing executive, laid off in August 2002, returned to UC in autumn 2002 to finish a bachelor’s degree he abandoned in 1974. “I’m a born again student,” he jokes, although the undertaking required a very serious amount of credit-hours undertaken in a very short time.

He finished the degree by taking 58 credit hours over fall and winter quarters, making him an official member of the Class of 2003 as well as an awe-inspiring role model for his kids. His middle child, Missy, 20, is also a UC undergraduate and his youngest child, Jessica, 18, will enroll at UC this fall. The eldest, Marcos, 25, graduates from Miami University in Oxford this year.

 “I think returning to school has been a great experience for me and a good example for them. My kids realize it was an extremely heavy schedule,” says Gonzalez, who majored in Spanish in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. A native of Chile, he originally came to Cincinnati as an exchange student at Garfield High School in Hamilton and returned to Cincinnati as an undergraduate at UC.

He decided to stay in Cincinnati but he realized his Spanish-language skills made him very employable, and he left school to begin a career. He first took a job with Andrew Jergens in Cincinnati, then Dayco Corp. in Dayton and most recently Henny-Penny Corp. in Eaton, Ohio, commuting from Cincinnati.

He always thought he would eventually finish his degree, but his successful career in international sales made that difficult. He estimates that he spent a total of 10 years abroad over the past 27 years, going back and forth from his home here to overseas clients and locations. “In international business, one has to travel to other countries and you have to have face to face contact to do it well,” says Gonzalez, who became a U.S. citizen in 1975. “That kind of schedule made finishing my degree impossible,” he says.

When he was “downsized” on Aug. 5, 2002, in the post-Sept. 11 economic gloom, he had “an opportunity to rethink my objectives for the rest of my life.” He gave himself until Aug. 20 to make a decision. Thanks to a severance package from Henny-Penny, a food service equipment manufacturing company, he decided to devote two quarters to his academic studies full time, or should we say more than full time? He decided to finish up a degree in Spanish in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences at UC.

Although he hopes to begin working part- or full-time again soon, Gonzalez is not giving up on higher education now that he has a BA. He plans to earn a master's and a PhD to begin a new career as a college professor.

Luis remains good friends with his ex-wife and children’s mother, Christine. “Her support is reflected in the fine young adults our children have become. She was mom-and-dad for those 10 years I was absent.”

He would be attending UC’s All-University Commencement on June 13, except that he is instead living up to a long-time promise to his youngest daughter,  who graduates from Roger Bacon High School on June 6. To celebrate her achievement, he and his daughter are taking a special trip to Fort Myers, Fla.

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