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.
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