On May 28, Rick and Ellen Hooker, Dr. Richard Roe and Alfonso Revollo from La Paz, Bolivia, got together to celebrate 40 years of friendship, at the newly-inaugurated Gervasi Vineyard, which is an Italian Bistro modern restaurant in Canton.
It was January of 1972 when Revollo arrived in Newcomerstown with his father and sister as a new Rotary Exchange student. Without any knowledge of the English language and with great limitations on the American customs, he stayed with three American families during his year in the exchange program: The Robert Duffy family, Mrs. Angie Fryre and the Richard Roe family.
Revollo can remember his first month in town when he caught the flu. Because of his English limitations, he was telling the family, "I am cold," instead of saying, "I have a cold." This resulted in increasing the temperature in the house instead of going to a doctor. Finally, after a couple of days of translating what he was trying to say, he did see the doctor.
He remembered how homesick he was but how great everyone was in Newcomerstown. High school principal Bruce Bidison was instrumental and supportive in his graduation. Dennis Belle helped him a great deal on his college decisions as well as Ray McFadden, along with many other teachers. Some of his classmates like Wendy Stork, Shari Baker, Ronda and Myra Roe, Steve and F.H. Gates, and many others were good friends.
While in Newcomerstown, he made the decision to continue his studies in the United States. He decided on Walsh University because he attended a Catholic School in Bolivia run by the Christian Brothers and he wanted to remain close to the Brothers and the Catholic University.
He said he was grateful to the Rotary Club in Bolivia and Newcomerstown for the sponsorship of his year in town. He talks with great respect about his learning process in Newcomerstown High School. Also, he mentions how much he enjoys coming back and visiting the town.
"All I have is great memories about the wonderful people in Newcomerstown," he said.
Recently, he was honored in "The Walsh Times" for his dedication to Walsh College and his life accomplishments. (The article follows.)
Paving the Way for International Students
Imagine the challenges of making the transition from high school to college without knowing how to speak English. As a Rotary Club International exchange student from La Paz, Bolivia, Alfonso Revollo's first hurdle to overcome as a Walsh freshman was the language barrier. Yet, by his senior year, he was elected President of Student Government.
"There were only six or seven international students on the entire campus at that time, so it was very difficult at first. It felt like we were paving the way for other international students to attend Walsh."
Thirty-five years later, Revollo is still paving the way for Walsh international students. Through his personal and professional connections in Bolivia, Revollo has been instrumental in expanding Walsh admission efforts internationally, especially in Latin America. Working closely with Vice President of Enrollment Management Brett Freshour and Walsh's new International Admissions Counselor Gustavo Stille, Revollo has provided important connections in his own country which have strengthened Walsh's recruitment efforts abroad. When families have questions or concerns, he also reaches out and encourages the international students he speaks with to consider Walsh as the next step in their educational careers.
"I think what I bring to the table is credibility," said Revollo. "I'm a former student from Bolivia who has done well in life. I can talk personally about the Walsh environment that treats each student like a person, not a number. I tell them that their professors and friends will watch over them, just like they did for me."
As a member of the Walsh Board of Directors since 2003, he has proudly supported the campus transformation over the past several years under the leadership of President Richard Jusseaume.
"If it hadn't been for the support from the admissions staff like John Latchic and Norm Kutz, along with then Dean of Students Richard Jusseaume during my freshman year at Walsh, I don't know how successful I would've been," said Revollo. "When Richard became President in 2001, we reconnected and he asked me to get more involved at Walsh. I have watched his dedication over the past 10 years and the dramatic changes that have taken place both on the campus and in the school's educational programs. I am proud to be an active alum of Walsh University and prouder still to make that experience accessible to international students like me."
It was also at Walsh that Alfonso Revollo discovered that he had a passion for public service. When he returned to Bolivia after graduation from Walsh, Revollo not only worked in the private and international sectors, he was also called to public service as Bolivia's Minister of Finance in 1982, Minister of Defense in 1987 and the country's first Minister of Capitalization in 1993. In 1997, Revollo returned to the United States and moved with his family to Washington, DC, where he joined the World Bank as a Senior Advisor and subsequently was appointed Executive Director, traveling all around the world discussing economic reform. Currently, Revollo continues to share his expertise and inspiration as an International Development Consultant. Alfonso has been married to his wife Maria for 33 years. They have two children, Martha (32 years old) and Alfonso (29 years old).
Since his graduation from Walsh in 1976, Alfonso has tried to remain close to his United States roots in Ohio. Whenever he is in town for board meetings, he finds time to also visit with his exchange family in Newcomerstown. And he is especially proud to talk with international students and their families about taking a chance at Walsh.
"Coming to a foreign country is tough; I know that personally," said Revollo. "But it is a valuable experience that I encourage other young students to try. Looking back, I can say it was a challenge, but, realizing now the life-long connections I made at Walsh, I wouldn't have done it any other way."
(The article originally appeared in "The Walsh Times," summer 2011 issue, and is re-printed courtesy of Walsh University.)