Political Science and Spanish Led Pete Solano to Where He is Today
Sept. 3, 2009 -- Without his academic mentors at Western, Pete Solano says he would not be where he is today. Solano graduated from Western in 1995.
Where he is now, in Monterrey, Mexico, working as a Foreign Service officer for the U.S. Department of State he says directly relates to his studies at Western. Solano graduated with a double major in Political Science and Spanish. He lives there with his wife Tara, and his two children Amelia (2 this October) and Zoe (born this August).
"My experience at Western was enriching and something I sincerely cherish," he said.
Solano's older sister, Laura, went to Western in the early 80s and was on the women's swim team. During his senior year in high school in Minnesota he contacted the football coaching staff with a video tape. The coaches invited him to Western to practice and he was accepted on the team. He played wide receiver.
"Academics came as a surprise to me, and I credit the personal work my professors invested in me," he said.
"I had the privilege to study under Dr. Lowdenslager (professor of Political Science) before he passed away. He helped me to analyze and understand concepts in different ways that helped shaped the way I think."
"Dr. Garcia (professor of Spanish) not only gave me a great foundation in the Spanish language, but the humor and culture also. That education has proved essential in my current employment," he said.
Western football coach, Duke Iverson, was also a strong influence on him. "My time on those football teams, with coach Iverson, and players like we had, helped shape much of my work ethic today."
He fondly remembers being on the championship teams with WSC Hall of Fame players like Bill Campbell, Jason Davis, Tyrone Johnson, Jayson Merrill and Shane Carwin as well as many other great players.
After graduation Solano entered the Marines. He makes a connection between his development at Western and his career in the military, "The personal interest that people took in me at Western is something I strived to do with the Marines I served with and led."
His career in the Marines lasted for 9 years. He served in Japan, Korea, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Kenya, Kuwait, Hawaii and Quantico, Virginia. In Hawaii he attained a master's degree in military studies at Hawaii Pacific University.
In Japan he met his wife Tara, who is from England. He was serving his first tour in the Marine Corps and she was teaching English in a local village to grade school kids.
Being in combat in Iraq in 2004 was the pinnacle of his career. He was wounded in action outside of Fallujah. He retired as a major in 2005.
From his experiences in combat he gained, "a profound appreciation for what life is, and what personal friendships and relationships mean."
He added, "What it comes down to over there is who you are with, who is next to you and what you do for each other in the worst type of situations."
"I began to get that appreciation at Western, in school and on the football field, but I didn't truly know what it meant until I went to combat," he said. "When I reflect back to what it means to be here walking and talking I realize you only get one shot at this life."
He still holds Gunnison high on his list of favorite places, and visits once and a while. "After all my travels, Gunny is still one of the best places I've ever been. It's the closeness of the people and the country that makes Gunnison unique."
Story by: Luke Mehall, assistant director of public relations
This piece originally appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of the Westerner, the WSC alumni magazine.