Rounding the Bases to Graduation
When Heriberto de la Cruz enrolled in Le Moyne, it wasn’t to secure a job. (de la Cruz already holds a full-time position in the College’s Physical Plant.) Nor was it to land a lucrative role sometime in the future. (In fact, he plans to retire from the College this year.) de la Cruz began taking classes for reasons that are far more personal. He sees the value of learning for its own sake. He is genuinely curious about the world in which he lives.
“Everybody should go to college, not with the idea of becoming rich in money, but rich in mind,” says de la Cruz, 61, who is affectionately known by members of the Le Moyne community as “Eddie.”
A native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Cruz immigrated to the U.S. 43 years ago. He grew up playing baseball. At just 17 he was drafted to play professional baseball, covering right field, first for the Jamestown Expos and later for the Auburn Phillies, for four seasons until an injury ended his career. Later Cruz went on to work as a first base and hitting coach for the Auburn Americans of the New York-Penn league club. Coaching was something he’d always wanted to do. Cruz eventually headed 30 miles east – to Le Moyne. He has remained at the College for the past 19 years, saying, “It has been like family.”
It was de la Cruz’s late mother, Claudina, who instilled in him a love of learning. He began taking classes 19 years ago, balancing his classwork with his full-time job and caring for his family, which includes his wife, Maritza; daughter, Tianna; and grandson, Connor, 12. They inspired his work, while de la Cruz’s colleagues in the Physical Plant, especially Pat O’Neill, director of facilities, operations and management, worked with his schedule to make it possible for him to take classes. de la Cruz faced challenges, including a language barrier (Spanish is his first language) and two bouts with cancer, but he did not allow that to keep him from earning his degree.
“It was hard, but when you want to accomplish something so beautiful, you find a way to do it,” he says.
In the classroom, de la Cruz zeroed in on a topic close to his heart, sociology.
“I’m a social person,” he explains. “I’m interested in learning about other cultures and behaviors.”
Matt Loveland, Ph.D., taught the Social Theory course that de la Cruz took and serves as his advisor. He witnessed firsthand how seriously de la Cruz took learning and the joy that it brought to him, saying, “He takes learning seriously, and as a result he has genuine fun doing it. I've never seen anyone smile like he does when he has the 'a-ha' moment!”
Loveland also saw how de la Cruz allowed his time in the classroom to change him.
“He's not the same person I met in that Social Theory class,” he says. “Eddie's whole life speaks to his dedication and commitment to reaching his goals, but over the last few years at Le Moyne I've seen him become a true scholar. He loves to learn in a way I wish we all did. I feel lucky to have met him, let alone to be his teacher and advisor.”