Thursday, January 13, 2011

Eduardo Obregón Pagán, Ph.D. >

Eduardo Obregón Pagán, Bob Stump Endowed Professor of History, New College, Arizona State University.

Being Hispanic, does it have any influence on your business?
It certainly does influence what I do, in the kinds of topics that I research and the kinds of stories that I find most interesting to tell about.

In the face of adversity, how do you decide to keep going?
I really have to give all the credit to my family. They keep me going. I look into the faces of my children and find the strength to keep going when I feel like giving up. My parents and my wife have always been my strongest supporters, too.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
There was a time in my life when I was living far from home, that I lost my job and went through a divorce within a matter of months. I pretty much hit rock bottom. I had no idea where I was going to live or how I was going to feed myself. It was a very lonely and difficult time.

If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?
I think it would be that I listened to my parents and teachers as a young man and got serious about my education sooner in life. I didn't appreciate at the time that a good education is a good foundation for the future.

What was your childhood ambition?
To play professional football with the Green Bay Packers. I didn't actually have the talent to play professional ball, but I sure could dream!

Tell us about three people that you admire?
I am blessed with good parents. As a parent now, myself, I am amazed by the choices they made in their lives that allowed their children to have opportunities that they didn't have. I try to stay true to what they taught me in words and by example, and pass that on to my own children. And I admire my wife, Ruth. She is truly an amazing woman.

For meetings: breakfast, lunch, or dinner?
Lonche. Dinner is family time.

What sacrifices on your personal life did you have to make in order to become a business success?
When I decided to get serious about my education I had to then decide between hanging out with my buddies or investing my time and energy in my studies. I had to approach my education like it was a full-time job and let nothing get in the way of my educational goals.

What is your favorite quote?
“The secret to success is constancy to purpose.” –Benjamin Disraeli

Is it difficult to be unconventional?
I don't think so. In a lot of ways growing up Latino in the United States makes you unconventional by default, and at some point you come to the realization that it is saner to embrace who you are than trying to always be what someone else thinks you should be.

Biggest mistake made?
In general, that I didn't fully appreciate and listen to the good advice that my parents gave me. As I alluded to above, I played around far too much in school when I was younger. Sure, I had some great times with my friends, but I also wasted a lot of the time that I could have been using to invest in my future and also my children's future. When I finally took responsibility for my own education, I had to make up for a lot of lost time. I did it, in the end, but my choices early in life had also made it much harder on me later in life than what it needed to be.

Do you consider yourself an innovator? Why?
There are many I admire who I consider true innovators, and I don't think I'm quite in their league. But I absolutely believe that it is important to develop your own unique talents, perspective, and voice.

About Eduardo:
History Detectives is a summer series on PBS that follows the show's hosts as they seek to solve historical mysteries. I received my Ph.D. in history from Princeton University and I am the Bob Stump Endowed Professor of History at Arizona State University.

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