Wake Forest’s first Latino graduates, Carlos Perez (’65) and Peter Bondy (’67), were honored March 21 on campus at the Celebration of Latino Heritage. The event was part of the ongoing Faces of Courage series, marking Wake Forest’s 50 years of integration and the University’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Perez came to the United States from Cuba as part of Operation Peter Pan, a program that brought many Cuban children to the U.S. in the early 1960s.
While a student at Brevard College, he made a weekend visit to Winston-Salem, toured the University and decided to transfer to Wake Forest. “I went, I saw, I fell for it,” he said. He enrolled in 1963 and became the first Latino graduate in 1965.
During the celebration of Latino heritage, Perez spoke to a standing-room only audience about the impact the University has had on his life and shared memories of playing intramural softball with Wake Forest sports legends Brian Piccolo and John Mackovic.
He also talked about his academic experience. “I could not have asked for better people as teachers,” he said. “They were knowledgeable, caring and demanding yet fair.” Inspired by his time at Wake Forest, Perez earned his doctorate and became a professor at the University before going on to teach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Bondy, who is originally from Ecuador, was also quick to note his lasting and meaningful relationships with Wake Forest faculty, many of whom he credits for his professional success as an actuarial consultant in Baton Rouge, La. These mentors included “surrogate parents” Dean Dyer and his wife as well as professors King and Campbell of the Romance Languages department.
Bondy continues his connection to Wake Forest by serving on the Board of Visitors and the Global Programs Advisory Committee. As a part of the committee, Bondy has influenced the education of thousands of Wake Forest students through initiatives including the establishment of the Flow House in Vienna and the creation of first-year seminars.
As he spoke about his experience as a Wake Forest alumnus, Bondy said, “It is awesome to be able to tell others what Wake stands for and what they can look forward to enjoying.”
After the awards presentation, the celebration continued with traditional Latino performances by Wake Forest’s Salsa Club and the Mexican dance group, Ballet Folklorico.
Both honorees were surprised by their selection as recipients of the “Faces of Courage” award. Perez said, “I never did anything like Jackie Robinson or Rosa Parks.”
Senior Nancy Aguillon, president of Wake Forest’s Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS), said of Perez and Bondy: “Your courage paved the way for students like me to be here.”