Love Letter to Alma Mater
School of Law 1990
Columbia is indeed a special place. Every time I walk across College Walk, a feeling of family comes across my heart and a sense of opportunity comes to mind.
I first set foot on 116th Street when I was 16 years old. I came to visit my cousin, Conrad Ramos, a student at Columbia College. Some 20 years later, I came to the Columbia campus to visit another cousin, Geoffrey Hussey, who graduated from the School of General Studies.
During the 20 years that separated my encounters with these two cousins, I attended Columbia Law School and have been an active supporter of my beloved alma mater. I have always regarded Columbia as my intellectual home and as an integral part of my spirit. After all, I was married at the Terrace Restaurant in Butler Hall, and the many friends that I have made at Columbia are like family to me.
But what makes this story all the more telling, and the kind of story that could only take place at such a wonderful university as Columbia, was the fact that Columbia afforded my family the opportunity to make its way in America. It opened doors that were closed to an earlier generation.
My family emigrated to this country from Cuba. In the old country, my grandfather, Fernando Carvajal, and his two brothers, Mario and Juan Francisco, were never able to obtain an education. Each man could properly be called self-made—and to a large extent they were all self-taught.
If you fast forward two generations later, each man had one grandson who attended Columbia. Indeed, it could rightfully be said that our attending a university such as Columbia would have been one of the glittering moments of pride in the lives of our respective grandfathers. Sadly, all but one of our respective grandfathers died before we were able to graduate.
Never could they have imagined that, when they first came to this country, such a magnificent place as Columbia existed—and that it would prove so nurturing to their sons one generation removed.
That is what Columbia and America are all about. In many ways, Columbia and our country seem as one. Each has given me that which was denied to my ancestors and each, I hope, will provide my children those same opportunities.
As someone who owes so much to Columbia, let me just conclude by saying from the bottom of my heart: Thank you, Columbia, for all that you have done for me and for my family. Have a happy 250th birthday.