When Elizabeth López learned that her uncle Jesse Musquez, ’73 Math, had completed his degree but never walked in Commencement, she asked why. As an undergraduate graduation evaluator at San Jose State’s Office of the Registrar, she knew how important it is for college students to celebrate their graduation.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to participate in graduation,” López said. “It’s a celebration of a big achievement, and I thought he would enjoy being a part of it.”
Back in 1973, Musquez was a young father of two, with a third on the way. As a Vietnam veteran, Musquez had already overcome significant obstacles in pursuing his education. When he was a young child, his family had worked for the automotive industry in Michigan before moving out west to pick apricots, cotton and grapes in the Valley of Heart’s Delight.
Determined to be the first in his family to complete a college degree, Musquez put himself through school on the G.I. Bill and worked full-time to support his wife and children. Just as he was completing the final requirements for graduation, his sister-in-law passed away unexpectedly, leaving three small children. Instead of donning his cap and gown, Musquez, along with his wife and his in-laws, focused on providing care for their family—a consistent theme throughout his life.
When she heard this story, López felt moved to do something. She investigated what it would take to bring her uncle to CEFCU Stadium on May 27 in cap and gown.
Achieving the American Dream
“My father is a fantastic example of someone who came from very simple means and has accomplished so much. He is an example of the American dream,” said Musquez’s daughter Anna Martorana, ’99 Molecular Biology.
Musquez, age 73, had originally pursued math as a pathway to coding, though at the time that he graduated, there weren’t any jobs in the field. Instead he chose a career in electronics, working for several years for Fairchild Semiconductor before entering international sales.
“For being someone who picked cotton and worked in the fields to graduating from San Jose State, it’s been a long journey,” Musquez said.
Throughout his successful career, the focus has always been on family. It’s no surprise that he’ll be surrounded by 15 family members on the big day, many of them flying in from out of town.
“My dad is so much about everyone else in the family,” said Martorana, who attended San Jose State as a young parent herself and now works for Novartis Pharmaceuticals. “He is the foundation of the family but he is often in the background. We’re thrilled to get this opportunity to recognize him and what he’s accomplished.”
When he went to pick up his cap and gown, surrounded by graduates of the Class of 2017, he says the excitement was palpable.
“It’s going to be fun to put on a gown and sit there with all these young people,” he said. “When I went to get my gown, you could feel the energy of all the students. You can feel their hard work and you can sense that their families have done the work to get them where they’re at. I’m happy to do this.”