Profile: Armando de la Cruz
It began with inviting a few college students to his house for Thanksgiving and has blossomed into a community tradition, bringing Thanksgiving to more than 300 international students at Mississippi State.
Discussing his college days, Armando de la Cruz recalls loneliness during holidays when he left his native Philippines for the United States, spending time alone while others celebrated with friendship and family.
That's why he has spent more than a quarter of a century helping students from other lands experience Thanksgiving in Starkville.
"I'm very sensitive to helping international students come together during the holidays," said de la Cruz, a professor emeritus in MSU's department of biological sciences who has visited more than 70 countries.
De la Cruz's tradition of providing a meal and telling students from other countries about Thanksgiving has grown larger than his house can accommodate. Now, the annual dinner takes place at First United Methodist Church.
Through the years, de la Cruz has become the unofficial ambassador to the international community, creating the International Fiesta hosted on campus and incorporating the international village at the community's annual Cotton District Arts Festival.
He and his wife, Ruth, relish the opportunity to help bridge the international community with local culture.
"We're immigrants," he said. "But we adopted Starkville as our hometown."
Next week … Emma, Madeline, and Clay Hawes !