By Chelsea Reese
Seize every opportunity, said Julio Leon, interim president of CSU-Pueblo, because that is what he did, and that is why he is where he is today.
“None of what I have done throughout my life has been planned. I didn’t go to high school thinking, ‘well, someday I want to be president of an American university,’” Leon said. “Sometimes you just take things as they come and take advantage of opportunities, whatever lucky breaks you get.”
Leon’s life began in Iquique, Chile, a small town in the northern part of the country. From there he moved to Santiago, Chile, where he began his career in education as an elementary school teacher, according to the Missouri Southern State University website.
During this time, Leon was also a runner for a Chilean track team, which later proved to be a means for him to come to the U.S. after receiving a track scholarship. After running in the 1959 Pan-American Games in Chicago, he decided to run for a junior college in Odessa, Texas. After that, he transferred to Oklahoma Baptist University.
Leo had to give up running after competing in a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletes championship meet due to an injury to his Achilles tendon, according to a biography prepared by Gayle Perez, a Pueblo Chieftain reporter, which can be found on the newspapers website.
Despite this, Leon and his wife, Vivian Leon, currently enjoy going to the YMCA as often as possible, he said.
“I cannot run as I did before, but I try to stay fit. I exercise as much as I can,” Leon said.
Back in the early to mid-1960s, there were no artificial tracks and there was a world of difference in the way injuries were treated, he said.
“It makes you wonder sometimes, ‘What could I have done? How fast could I have gone if I were running on these tracks, if I were training like these youngsters do today?’” Leon said. “It makes you wonder.”
After giving up his passion for running, he and his wife moved to attend North Texas State University, where he earned his master’s degree in business administration, and later received his doctorate in business administration from the University of Arkansas, according to the biography.
For almost 40 years after that, Leon would remain at Missouri Southern State University, 25 of which were spent as its president. Leon retired in 2007.
The rest is history.
Besides staying fit and being the leader of a university, there are other things Leon said he likes to do. He enjoys classical and old-time Spanish music, watching movies, such as Indiana Jones, and eating Chinese food. He said he also likes to travel and has traveled all over the globe, everywhere from Japan to Russia. Italy is his favorite place in the world, he said.
“I haven’t been to the south of Italy, you know, to the boot part,” Leon said.
After finishing his work at CSU-Pueblo, Leon and Vivian plan to do some more traveling, possibly visit “the Boot,” he said, and he also plans to write a novel one day.
“I have all sorts of plots in my head about spies and different themes,” he said. “You know, with all the developments these days and the Internet, you can pretty much sit down at a computer and write the story of your life.
“That’s another thing I’d like to do, not for the purposes of letting other people know what I have done with my life or even for publishing it, but just I think that it would be nice to be able to sit down at a computer and think back to the very first day I have memory of and say ‘it all began on such and such day.’”