The Lady Has a Big Mission, cont.

Agron says a lot of her already strong inner confidence increased at Moravian, where she earned her undergraduate degree in 1997 and her M.B.A. in 2000. James West of the Economics and Business Department tells the story of how Erlinda, as a project for his History of Economics class, decided to interview the Nobel Prize-winning Russian economist Wassily Leontieff, who was living in New York and was, at the time, 90. “She didn’t know she couldn’t do it,” adds Linda Heindel, director of the Division of Continuing and Graduate Studies, “so she just took her little camcorder, went off to New York City, and had a lovely time with him.”

Agron has come a long way from her homeland. A native of El Salvador, she was born in Cojutepeque, about an hour from the capital, San Salvador. She came to the United States in 1986, after political uprisings disrupted the university’s campus while she was studying industrial engineering. “I found myself in the middle of shootings twice,” she says.

Agron’s mother already lived in the United States, so her daughter came to see her. “I thought I’d be visiting, but I ended up staying,” Agron says. She lived first in Plainfield, New Jersey, then moved to Palmerton. “I liked the area—it was so much greener.”

She married (and divorced) and took a series of jobs in banking, but never forgot the importance of learning. After all, this is a woman who earned secondary school diplomas in three subjects in El Salvador. “One was in science, one was secretarial, and the other was in math and physics,” she explains. “They refused to issue three diplomas at the same time, as it had never happened before!”

And she realized she had some powerful obstacles to overcome, “being an immigrant, a woman, and a single mother.” She returned to school after she was transferred to a bank in Bethlehem.

“I decided to go to Moravian,” Agron says. “I had heard so many good things about the school. In addition, it was accessible and close to my job”—important factors for a full-time working single parent. Agron has three sons: José, now 16, Luís, 14, and Roberto, 11. The boys helped their mother with her college studies, even coming along with her to do their homework at Moravian’s library while she studied.

“I wasn’t sure I could do it,” Agron remembers. “Even people born in the United States aren’t sure. . . . People said I was crazy, but I thought that the best way to show these negative people [was] by achieving something.”

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Photo: John Kish IV