Gabriel Verdaguer '03 was presented the award by University President William P. Leahy, SJ, at the 10th annual Romero Scholarship Banquet held March 23 in the Welch Dining Room of Lyons Hall.
The scholarship is given each year to a BC junior who exemplifies the values and ideals of martyred Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, a crusader for the poor and social justice who was assassinated while celebrating Mass in 1980. The scholarship covers three-quarters tuition for the senior year.
Verdaguer, his six brothers and sisters and their parents, Christina and Miguel, moved to Brooklyn from the Patagonia region of southern Argentina in 1990. His parents struggled to find work in their new country, Verdaguer said, and with so many mouths to feed even the most basic staples had to be rationed.
"We were dirt poor for so long," recalled Verdaguer, a philosophy major in the College of Arts and Sciences. "We had nothing when we came here and it is only because of the love of my parents that we survived.
Gabriel Verdaguer (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
"Each week we could afford only one container of orange juice for the whole family to share. So all we got for breakfast was a little tiny cup of juice and nothing more. I'll never forget that."
In time, Verdaguer's parents found work, saved money and the family was gradually able to escape poverty. Later, the Verdaguer clan relocated to Long Island, Framingham and eventually Newton. With each of his siblings on the path to college or a professional career, the example his parents set during their struggle serves as motivation for Verdaguer.
"Even in the most difficult times they put love before everything and put their children before themselves," said Verdaguer. "They are the model of how I want to live my life."
A graduate of Newton South High School, Verdaguer is president of the AHANA Leadership Council, a member of the Organization of Latin American Affairs and other campus organizations and competes in track and field.
While Verdaguer is still trying to decide what path he would like to take after Boston College, he knows he is committed to serving others.
"What people do with their success and their wealth is very important," said Verdaguer. "No one in the United States is successful without the help of others, so you have to ask, 'What is my duty to society and to the people who have provided for me?'"
That question, Verdaguer says, motivates him to seek social justice for people from all racial and ethnic groups, across the economic strata.
"If you see an injustice and you let it go on, then you become a part of the problem," he said.
Some of the inspiration for that fight is found in the life of the man for whom his scholarship was named, says Verdaguer.
"Romero was a man of faith and his relationship with God and Jesus Christ transcended institutional confines," said Verdaguer. "That gave him the courage to fight for justice - he knew that no matter what, God had his back."
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