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Gene Arthur - Class of 1970
Black Villanova Oral History Project

Gene Arthur

Class of 1970


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Gene Arthur was born and raised in West New York, New Jersey, 15 minutes north of Hoboken, NJ and the Lincoln Tunnel. Gene was the oldest of 10 children (7 boys, 3 girls). His mother and father met in the West New York area when Gene's father was stationed in the military nearby. After their marriage, the Arthur family lived across the street from a convent for Catholic nuns and his mother took a job there cooking. Gene's mother and father were both raised Baptist, but Gene's mother converted to Catholicism in her early thirties after developing a close relationship with the nuns and eventually the parish priest.  
  
Gene was raised Catholic and went to the Catholic grammar school where the nuns taught. He then attended a private, Catholic high school on academic scholarship, St. Joseph's of the Palisades, where he excelled in the classroom and on the football/baseball fields. Gene recalls being the only African American student in high school until his younger brother followed him a few years later. His experience at  St. Joseph's as the only black student prepared him well for life at Villanova, with a 1% black student population at the time. Coincidentally, Ted Freeman '72, his former teammate at Villanova, would later coach at St. Joseph's igh School. under Gene's former head coach, Frank Gargiulo. Arthur credits Coach Gargulio as the person most responsible for developing Gene's athletic talent. He also played a major role in securing Arthur's football scholarship to Villanova.
  
At Villanova, Gene was a student in the College of Commerce & Finance, and he counted Dean Alvin Clay, recently deceased, as a mentor and friend. On the football field, Gene was an outstanding defensive halfback and was elected Co-Captain his Senior year. He was the first African American to be named Captain of a Villanova football team in school history. Gene was named the Most Consistent Player by his teammates/coaches. As a result of his athletic and academic accomplishments, Gene was inducted into the  Villanova University Varsity Club Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.

Besides his stellar football career, Gene was also active in the Student Government Association, serving as Treasurer of his Senior Class. Primarily due to his full-time obligation to football, his studies, and his involvement in the Student Government Association, Gene did not participate in the Black Student League. Though he did not formally participate in the organization Gene supported the BSL mission and goals which consisted of the following: the recruitment of more non-athlete black students, more black faculty, a black curriculum, and a black voice on campus. Gene was more of an independent thinker. He was driven by the idea of  maximizing his own personal growth and contribution to campus life. Gene felt the BSL was formed to be an instrument of change, which was     a needed, noble cause. Gene's personal mission, which he felt was characterized by an individual approach, was to change the hearts, minds and perceptions of others regarding black students on campus. He wanted to accomplish this by interacting, competing, and exchanging ideas with all Villanova students.  His ultimate goal was to demonstrate the many capabilities and endless possibilities of the black Villanova student given the opportunity. Because of his friendships, personal accomplishments,  and contributions to the university, Gene viewed his Villanova experience, in its totality, as a positive and rewarding one. Gene's personal recipe for success is to "find your passion, pursue it, and persevere."
  
As he mentions in the interview excerpts below, Gene had a very disappointing, tumultuous Senior year. The football team under-achieved as the team had a lame-duck head coach whom Arthur indicated was not well-liked or respected by his players or captains. Despite these struggles, Gene enjoyed a strong sense of camaraderie with his teammates. His plans of being drafted professionally or playing in a Bowl or All-Star game never materialized. While also faced with a family health crisis, Gene received a very low Vietnam War draft lottery number (52) in December 1969, which meant he would be called-up and drafted  into the U.S. Army within weeks of his graduation from Villanova. As a result, his dreams of possibly pursuing professional football or landing a lucrative job offer from Wall Street were dashed, and he was forced to enroll in the Army Reserves for a period of six years.  Coincidentally, Bob Whitehead '70, who was Gene's sophomore roommate at Villanova, would also serve his Army Reserve active duty at the same time and in the same place - Fort Polk, Louisiana. Here, Gene and Bob would reunite and resume their friendship. After his six month active duty military service,  Gene landed a job in the corporate financial world and worked for several multinational corporations holding various management/executive positions.  The highlight of his business career was travelling to Cuba on multiple visits, meeting Fidel Castro, and negotiating agreements with Castro's inner circle. Today, Gene is a Financial Advisor/Planner with his own consulting firm. 

 

 

Videos for Gene Arthur will be back up soon!

Arthur on Life Before Villanova

In this segment of the interview Gene talks about his upbringing in West New York, NJ and what led him to Villanova.

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Arthur on the Transition from High School to College

Arthur talks about the challenges he faced during the transition from high school student-athlete to collegiate student-athlete.

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Arthur on Friendships at Villanova and His Changing Focus

In this portion of the interview Arthur describes the friendships he had with his teammates and with fellow black students at Villanova. Arthur also discusses how his approach to college changed during his junior year when faced with his father's health situation.

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Arthur on his Experiences of Playing Football in the South in 1968

Arthur describes the racism he encountered on several trips to the South, including Virginia Tech and West Virginia, with the Villanova football team.

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Arthur on the Tensions on the Football Team During His Senior Year

In these two excerpts from the interview Arthur describes the tensions between Villanova football players and the coaching staff which marked his senior year. Arthur was named the first African American football captain during his senior year and here he describes the difficulty he had in managing the relationship between players and coaches and among the team itself. 

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Arthur on His Off-the-Field Struggles During His Senior Year

Arthur candidly discusses his personal struggles during his senior year. Besides the football team's disappointing end to the season which hampered Arthur's chances for the NFL, Arthur was dealing with family health issues and faced the Vietnam War draft. 

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Arthur on Being Black on a White Campus in the Late 1960s

Arthur shares his thoughts on being a black student on a predominantly white campus in the late 1960s. Arthur describes how his strong sense of self led him to choose a unique path for black student in the midst of the Black Power movement.

In the second segment, Arthur describes some of the white student reaction to the Black Power salute at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, where Villanova students Larry James and Erv Hall medaled.

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Arthur on Interracial Dating on Villanova's Campus in the Late 1960s

Arthur discusses the social life on campus particularly as it relates to interracial dating. Arthur describes the negative feedback he received from white and black students alike while he was dating a white student.

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Arthur on the Augustinians and Dean Al Clay

In this segment of the interview Arthur fondly recalls his experiences with the Augustinians at Villanova. Arthur's most signficant mentor was Dean Alvin Clay of the College of Commerce and Finance who had passed away only weeks prior to the interview. 

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Arthur on his Business Career After Villanova

In these two segments, Arthur discusses his career in business following his time in the Army Reserves. Arthur had a successful career in finance, management and international business at various corporations prior to the establishment of his own business. 

 

In the second excerpt, Arthur discusses the challenges of operating your own business..

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Arthur on his Villanova Experience and Advice to Students Today

In the conclusion to the interview, Arthur summarizes his experiences at Villanova while providing some advice for college students today.

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