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News Clips 05/10/2013
End of an era as Alvarez leaves FSU
Source: Tallahassee Democrat, 05/09/13
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By Doug Blackburn
Ralph Alvarez is telling people that he “graduates” from FSU Friday, 41 years to the day after he started working at Florida State.
Hired by his alma mater as an Accountant 1, Alvarez will leave FSU as Associate Vice President for Budget Planning and Financial Services, the institution’s go-to guy for budget questions for almost 30 years.
Just don’t use the word “retirement.” Instead, congratulate the 64-year-old Alvarez on his “graduation.”
“When your job is a lot of your passions, retire sounds a little too weird to me,” he said. “I like to think I graduated with some accomplishments, even if I’m the only one who thinks that way.”
He’s not. Vice presidents at FSU call him an unsung hero, a numbers guy who cares deeply about students, faculty and staff.
David Coburn, chief of staff to FSU President Eric Barron and interim vice president for finance and administration, said Alvarez is also an invaluable resource for many outside FSU.
“Ralph regularly gets emails from BOG (Board of Governors) staff and others in the system are always going to Ralph for background,” Coburn said. “He’s been a resource for years for everyone else, not just us. It’s a serious loss for us.”
Alvarez’s departure comes less than three months after the retirement and passing of his longtime boss, John Carnaghi, who had been vice president for finance and administration for more than 20 years. The two highly respected administrators were warehouses for a treasure trove of institutional knowledge at FSU.
“Ralph has just uncompromising integrity,” Barron said. “When Ralph says this is the number, this is the way it is, you knew if Ralph did it, he did it right. To be at Florida State for 41 years is just unbelievable.”
A native of Cuba, Alvarez came to Florida in 1960 at age 11, shortly after Fidel Castro took over. Alvarez, joined by five siblings, his father and his pregnant mother, arrived in the United States with no money. He proceeded to become an example of the American dream come to life.
His father, Jose Arturo Alvarez Merino, and mother, Lourdes Alvarez Granda – Everyone in Cuba has two last names, he said – were Alvarez’s heroes.
“I follow somewhere in my dad’s footsteps. I share his passion for financial numbers, the language of numbers,” Alvarez said. “Numbers tell a story about organizations and what they’re about financially.”
Alvarez at times during the past six years appeared to be taking the budget personally, as lawmakers made cuts to Florida’s public universities year after year.
FSU’s budget was slashed by more than $100 million during that stretch, forcing Alvarez to often be the bearer of sober news as FSU struggled to assemble its annual budget. That changed this year, as the state finally had additional revenue to distribute.
“It’s been a real roller-coaster, but I feel good leaving at this time because I think the budget is heading in a good direction,” Alvarez said. “I see my job, which I love, as being of service to other people. I know what needs to be done so other people can make decisions.”