Inspired by Humans of New York, where Brandon Stanton shares short stories of hundreds of New Yorkers, we went on a quest to find students, alumni, faculty and staff within the CASE community who make us see the world in a different light. This is one in a series we’ve titled, Humans of CASE.
Eduardo Lombard’s maternal grandmother never received formal schooling, but she instilled a drive in him to earn his degree without going into debt.
With her advice etched in his head and heart, Lombard made a choice: “I volunteered to join the Marine Corps.” In 1968 – during the height of Vietnam War protests – he enlisted to help pay for his education and fulfill his grandmother’s dream.
Although his peers told him he was crazy, Lombard kept his mind on his ultimate goal: “If I’m lucky [enough] to come back, then I will use the GI Bill.”
In 1969, he returned from the war and began his undergraduate career at Miami Dade College. Two years later, Lombard joined the Panther family.
He graduated from FIU with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 1975 and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology in 1976. After graduation, Lombard realized he had a passion for social service when he began working as a food stamp counselor for the State of Florida Department of Health & Rehabilitative Service.
He was dedicated to understanding the experience of those he served.
“I told my wife that if she can eat a hamburger instead of a Cuban steak and back me up, I want to learn from the bottom up.”
His devotion and hard work ethic led to a promotion and placement in the juvenile division. Starting as a child abuse counselor and investigator, he eventually made his way up to juvenile court intake counselor.
After 20+ years of service to the State of Florida Department of Corrections, the Northwest Dade Center and Columbia Healthcare Corp, Lombard retired in 2010 from the Dade County Public Schools’ Project Trust Program.
Though his professional career was over, his service to the community was not. In 2013, Lombard received a call from the Associate Vice President of Alumni Relations & Annual Giving, Duane Wiles.
“[Wiles] said, ‘Do you know why we are calling?’ I said ‘No, but I’m honored. I know you’re not calling me to play football’.”
That 9 a.m. call led to Lombard’s ongoing involvement in Panther Alumni Week (PAW). Hosted by the FIU Alumni Association, PAW brings alumni to campus to help students navigate the transition between graduation and career.
The two-time alumnus recalls things being quite different back in the day.
“There was no police department, so you could be late. Just drop your car and run for your life to a classroom. There was no technology back then, so registration was like a check book,” Lombard said.
One thing that hasn’t changed – professors’ dedication to their students. For Lombard, Dr. Barry Levine, professor emeritus of sociology, made a lasting impression.
One day, Dr. Levine administered an essay test to his students. Having originally arrived from Cuba at 13, Lombard was not very comfortable with the English language. He walked out of the class without finishing the exam.
“[Dr. Levine] followed me in the hallway, and he spoke to me in Spanish,” he recalls. “He said, ‘You know why you’re here in college. Come back, and I’ll let you do the test in Spanish’.”
Not believing it was fair to his classmates, Lombard went back into the classroom and finished the exam in English.
“To this day, I don’t know how I was able to write in perfect English with all the grammar rules and all the punctuations. Barry Levine was one of my mentors. That is why I’m a mentor.”
Now, Lombard encourages students to use the technology he didn’t have to get engaged in the community so organizations get to know them. Each year he shares the experience he’s gained since setting foot on the path his grandmother inspired.
How he describes his life’s journey? With tears in his eyes and a break in his voice: “Exciting. I have no regrets.”