December 19, 2014  

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Tolosa's Story Represents the "American Dream"

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There are times when you need no more than five minutes to get a definitive reading on someone’s character.

The person’s body language, choice of words, attitude toward others in a public setting are quite often revealing. Just a few minutes after meeting J. Carlos Tolosa for the first time, I instinctively knew he represented honesty and common decency.

Tolosa, a retired former Harrah’s Entertainment executive, was visiting the Southern Miss campus on Oct. 29 to receive the Boardman Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award presented annually by the College of Business.

His bio clearly states that Tolosa is a native of Chile, but you must listen closely to detect the slightest hint of a foreign accent. And that’s all the more fascinating because Tolosa spoke no English when he first visited the United States in 1968. One year later he was accepted into the Latin American Institute (later changed to the English Language Institute) here at Southern Miss.

By 1973 he owned a bachelor of arts degree in language and business. And over the next 25 years he carved out a career that would make any Hollywood producer proud, rising to president of the Eastern Division of Harrah’s at the time of his retirement in January of this year. Yes, Tolosa’s story embodies the “American Dream” in all its wondrous glory. And this university played a pivotal role in helping him realize that dream.

We should never lose sight of the important, life-changing work that takes place on this campus every minute of every day. Carlos Tolosa certainly has not. “The University of Southern Mississippi is very special to me,” he said. “And always will be.”

Might I add, that this distinguished alumnus is humble to boot.