Ruben Armi?na was 14, verging on chubby, and, as he tells it five decades later, had only a dime in his pocket.
It was Nov. 6, 1961, and he was saying goodbye to his parents, preparing to enter "the fishbowl," a glassed-in departure lounge at Cuba's Jose Marti International Airport.
He was one of 14,000 Cuban children extracted from post-revolution Communist Cuba in the U.S.-sponsored Operation Peter Pan. Armi?na would not see his parents for nine years.
SSU President Ruben Armi?na
President of Sonoma State University's Ruben Arminana (CQ) is greeted at the entrance of a tribute dinner for Jeffery Kahane (CQ), outgoing director of the Santa Rosa Symphony, April 28, 2006 held at the Wells Fargo Center. (Savor / Crista Jeremiason)
8/26/2003: B3: Ruben Arminana, president of Sonoma State University, speaks Monday during the school's fall convocation in the Evert B. Person Theater.
SSU president Ruben Arminana addresses Roseland University Prep students and parents during dinner on the SSU campus on Sunday, July 29, 2007. (Christopher Chung/ Press Democrat)
After a toast to the ground breaking of the new Green Music Center in Rohnert Park, from left Corrick Brown, Ruben Arminana, Don Green and his wife Maureen, make their way to a pylon that everyone who attended the festivity signed.
Sonoma State University's Dr. Ruben Arminana toasts during a celebration of the ground breaking for the long awaited Green Music Center.
PC: SSU President Ruben Arminana talks to the faculty about state budget cuts during his state of the University address Monday. 8/21/2001
While holding fair contract protest signs, Sonoma State's Andy Merrifield, center, Chair of the school's political science department talks to california faculty association local president Victor Garlin, left, as Pat Jackson, far left, department chair of Criminal justice administration dept listens to SSU president Ruben Arminana state of the union speech Monday.
(l to r) Bob Worth, director of the Choral program at SSU, Marne Olson, (arminana'awife), and Ruben Arminana, SSU Presdient.
SSU President Ruben Arminana speaks of the need to incorporate new technology during a meeting of the PresidentÕs Advisory Board on Friday.
Seven new buildings were constructed on the campus of Sonoma State during the 19 tenure of President Ruben Arminana, including the Green Music Center.
(l to r) SSU President Ruben Arminana talks with Larry Furukawa-Schlereth, Ed Stolman and Dan Condron after a meeting of the PresidentÕs Advisory Board on Friday.
Sonoma State President Ruben Arminana tries to clean out his inbox beween meetings on Friday. Arminana has been collected masks from the Americas for over 40 years.
Sonoma State President Ruben Arminana.
Sonoma State President Ruben Arminana laughs with ASA president Bridgette Dussan after a meeting of the Sonoma State Enterprise Committee.
Seven new buildings were constructed on the campus of Sonoma State during the 19 tenure of President Ruben Arminana, including the Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center.
Savor Scene--Cathy and David Marsten talk with master of ceremonies Ruben Arminana at Fifth Annual Achievements in the Arts Award reception at the Cooperage at SSU.
5/25/2008: B1: RIGHT: SSU President Ruben Arminana gives his abbreviated commencement speech.
PC: Sonoma State University President , Rubin Arminana, gives an extremely abbreviated commencement speech, Saturday May 24, 2008 at SSU in Rohnert Park, before canceling the morning ceremonies due to rain. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)2008
News lede/--4 of 6--Sonoma State University president Ruben Arminana congratulates a graduate during commencement at Sonoma State Univesity in Rohnert Park, Saturday May 26, 2007. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat) 2007
PC: Dr. Ruben Arminana,(CQ) President of SSU, talks with students from Roseland University Prep during a pizza lunch on campus.
11/14/2004: B1: Sonoma State University President Ruben Arminana on Friday shared pizza with visiting Roseland University Prep students. At a Roseland Prep celebration earlier in the week, Arminana predicted he'd eventually be awarding the students their college diplomas.
7/26/2009: A1: Ruben Arminana
PC: Sonoma State University President Ruben Arminana during SSU's Commencement in May 2009. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2009
8/20/2009:B1: Ruben Arminana
8/2/2009: B2: Sonoma State University President Ruben Arminana.
7/31/2009:A1: Ruben Arminana talks about the future of Sonoma State amid larger classes, staff furloughs and the most severe budget cuts in the university's history
PC: Sonoma State University President Dr. Ruben Arminana, Wednesday July 29, 2009. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2009
Sonoma State University President Dr. Ruben Arminana, Wednesday July 29, 2009. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2009
Dr. Ruben Arminana gives his annual address at SSU Monday afternoon
1/25/2008: B1: Onstage at Sonoma State's budget talk Thursday were, from left: President Ruben Arminana; Tim Wandling, faculty senate chairman; Eduardo Ochoa, provost; Whitney Diver, president of Associated Students; and Lane Olson, staff representative.
PC: At the annual Sonoma State University's University Convocation, on stage from left:President Ruben Arminana(cq);Tim Wandling(cq),faculty senate chair;Eduardo Ochoa (cq),provost; Whitney Diver (cq),associated students president; Lane Olson (cq),staff representative. Present( but not pictured was Dr. Andy Merrifield, chair of the faculty). Press Democrat/ mark aronoff
Sonoma State University President Ruben Arminana and Jean Schulz join Snoopy for picture-taking after the ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday afternoon for the Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center on campus.
A crowd of people gather as SSU President Dr. ruben Arminana and U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma open the new Sonoma State University Environmental Technology Center, known as the multi-million dollar building with a brain.
Before he left, he promised them two things.
"I will go to college," he said. "And nobody will ever bully me into anything."
Today, at age 64, he is in many ways still in a fishbowl: the presidency of Sonoma State University.
When he arrived at the Rohnert Park campus 19 years ago, SSU depended largely on commuter students and was among California State University sites being considered for closure because of faltering enrollment. Now 10 students apply for every available seat at SSU and Armi?na is its longest-serving president.
"And I have kept those promises," he said.
Armi?na's mother used to call him "cabeza dura," or hard head, and Armi?na says she was right. "In some ways I have the temper, the temperament of a Cuban," he said. Indeed, he says, many years ago in New Orleans, he brandished an empty revolver at a man who was threatening him, ending the confrontation.
A refusal to be turned aside from his goals has been his signature as SSU's chief executive and he has attained largely what he set out to do.