The Arévalos share a tour of their home and insight into their personal lives
From flunking the first grade to a doctorate by 27, President Rodolfo Arévalo brings to Eastern a past filled with accomplishments and a lot of hard work.
The president was raised in America by parents who were migrant farm workers from Mexico. He moved from community to community following the different picking cycles of different crops.
“It was sort of fun and unique in one way. I don’t resent what we did. It was work from sun-up until sundown, so I guess it prepared me to be a president,” Rodolfo Arévalo said.
His parents came to the United States before they had children and preferred to speak their native language in the household. The Arévalo siblings spoke mostly Spanish growing up, so when school started, Rodolfo Arévalo spoke very little English. Because of this language barrier, he failed the first grade.
Not allowing that to stop him, Rodolfo Arévalo went on to the University of Michigan where he received his doctorate in educational administration at the age of 27. As a graduation gift, he bought himself a 1973 used red Porsche and still has the car to this day.
Rodolfo Arévalo met his wife, Nadine, in Hayes, Kan., where she was working in the provost office at a small liberal arts college. Rodolfo Arévalo was an administrator at the college, and when she left her position a few years later, they started dating.
“We had a number of things in common in terms of things we liked to do. She likes to dance, I like to dance. We used to play a lot of racquetball, so those were things we enjoyed doing together,” Rodolfo Arévalo said. “She has three great daughters and so I liked hanging out with them too. I had five brothers and one sister, so I sort of liked interacting with her girls.”
Knowing Nadine was the one for him was an easy decision. Big changes were happening in his life and he wanted her with him.
“I was getting ready to make another move to another university and really felt ‘rather than leave our relationship, that I would just take her with me,’” he said.
Nadine Arévalo laughs, “Man of my dreams.”
And fourteen years later, the couple now lives in the University House on campus and is very active in the Eastern community. They come into the presidency as a team in terms of entertaining and meeting people, but the big decisions are left up to him.
“The job for both of us is really 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Rodolfo Arévalo said.
Nadine Arévalo said, “When it comes to decisions about the university, I wouldn’t say I have any influence because he is the one who knows about that, I really don’t. I would say I probably don’t have a lot of influence, nor, to be truthful, would I want to.”
Rodolfo Arévalo laughs, “I would say probably very little, mainly because it is common nature in either social occasions or just her walking the campus to be asked about things so that people know what I am thinking. Nine times out of 10, she knows about decision about the time it is announced to the campus.”
The couple attends a variety of events on campus and in the community on a weekly basis. “We always have a lot of opportunities to go to any number of events on campus, whether it’s music events, athletic events, receptions for students or visiting dignitaries,” Rodolfo Arévalo said.
They also frequent the sporting events to show support. From hockey, volleyball, football, basketball and the occasional soccer game or track meet, the couple tries to attend as many games as their busy schedules will allow.
“We are so thrilled that the teams are doing so well and they put so much effort into school. It amazes me how they do it,” Nadine Arévalo said. “I just can’t imagine doing all they do and still being able to graduate, so we try to support them in any way we can.”
Rodolfo Arévalo said, “We don’t have a lot of personal time because there is a lot of time where we are very lucky we have a free weekend because we have events. It may be one thing that we have like on a Saturday, but it’s in the middle of the day and so it sort of kills your whole day. Or we even have events that occur on Sunday.”
Their life is not all work and no play. A couple times a year, they try to take a week off to visit family. Part of the job also involves traveling and that has led to some experiences that most people don’t get to do.
“When we do have breaks or make breaks, we’ll probably end up visiting family, the grandkids,” Rodolfo Arévalo said.
Rodolfo Arévalo travels often and has been to places like Russia, Spain, Japan, Finland and China at least half a dozen times. His wife travels with him as often as money allows. With the cost covered for him and not for her, traveling to the more exotic locations for Nadine Arévalo is limited.
When he was working at the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburgh, Texas, the exchange program was involved with Salamanca, Spain. They were changing some things in the program and invited him to visit to see the changes happening.
“I used every last frequent flier mile that he had and I went with him and I would have to say that was probably the best time I have ever had,” Nadine Arévalo said.
Rodolfo Arévalo was a provost at the time of the trip and they were allowed into the vaults of the oldest university in the world in Spain to look at ancient written documents.
“It was just fantastic,” Nadine Arévalo said. “It was just unbelievable.”
The president enjoyed Spain as well, but eventually made his way to Russia where the culture stood out to him.
“I like the expression of culture in Russia,” Rodolfo Arévalo said. “Sort of every community you went to was a little different, a little unique and they had a very great willingness to express their culture through things that they did in the community.”
The couple recently went on a refueling mission at Fairchild Air Force Base as a small perk of the job.
“We went to Fairchild and went on one of the tankers and flew to watch them refuel some jets over Oregon,” Rodolfo Arévalo said.
Along with the traveling, Rodolfo Arévalo likes to go white-water rafting, downhill skiing and anything else that involves speed.
“At one time when I was young, I worked a lot on cars, so I helped friends build race cars and helped one of my friends race a sports car that he had,” Rodolfo Arévalo said. “I think that’s why I have the inclination to
like sports cars.”
He does not race his own sports cars, at least according to him. Nadine Arévalo slightly disagrees.
“He has a lead foot,” Nadine Arévalo said.
Her experiences have “a little more crazy” in them. She did a tandem skydive from 10,000 feet a few years ago and jumped off of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas last year, both with her second daughter.
“He likes to engage his mind … and I am just kind of the opposite. I like to be more active,” Nadine Arévalo said. “I am a little more crazy than him.”
Rodolfo Arévalo said, “I don’t do crazy things.”
When the couple is at home, they lead a “boring life,” according to Nadine Arévalo.
They go to movies where the president often sheds a tear.
“He cries at movies. It’s kind of funny,” Nadine Arévalo said. “[Rodolfo Arévalo is] very soft-hearted, which you don’t really see at all in his position.”
They enjoy dancing, listening to jazz and going to the 10 a.m. Mass on Sundays. They often stay for coffee and donuts after Mass, where the president dunks his donuts into coffee with a small amount of cream.
“On a social occasion, I will drink coffee, but my drink of preference is tea with a lot of lemon,” Rodolfo Arévalo said.
Both of them came from meager means and that has helped them with their decisionmaking throughout life. The president enjoys dressing in nice clothes and suits, but the price has to be marked down. He refuses to buy a car new, and has two Porsches that he purchased, both used. Along with the 1973 graduation gift to himself, the couple bought a 1999 blue Porsche.
Nadine Arévalo suggested once that they get some work done on the ‘73, and that did not go over well. “He looked at me and he says ‘You know what honey, I have had that car longer than I have had you,’ and I took that as a ‘Nope, I guess he’s not getting rid of it,’” she laughed. “That was his comment with a smile on his face.”