Corvette-loving Navy vet drives MLT to new success

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Luis Nuñez is known for running a tight ship as director of the Medical Lab Technician (MLT) program at Southwestern College’s National City Higher Education Center (HEC). Maybe that is because he has run a ship. Next he would like to run a marathon.

SWC’s MLT program recently got the stamp of approval from the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences, only the second in California to receive full accreditation.

Dennis A. Soliven, a graduate of the MLT program, said he thanks Nuñez for his success.

“Director Nuñez pushed us when we needed that push,” said Soliven.

Christine Perri, dean of the HEC in National City, said Nuñez was a “blessing.”

“Luis is intelligent, dedicated and extremely motivated,” she said. “He was the perfect person to develop and launch our MLT program.”

Nuñez is currently working on securing a large grant to support the MLT program. His students are a huge motivation, he said. Nuñez hopes to see an enrollment increase.

“I’m offering opportunities for my graduates,” Nuñez said. “With the quality of the program, it is not surprising that they are being offered jobs by the big facilities out there. And that’s the big thing today.”

Nuñez said a graduate school professor told him “motivation equals value multiplied by confidence.” Nuñez strives to bring all three.

“With over 16 years in the Navy, I believe a lot of my success is owed to that,” Nuñez said. “I was taught the core values of honor, courage, commitment and discipline.”

Nuñez has many goals in mind for the future. He wishes to earn a doctorate in educational leadership so he can become dean of the National City HEC one day.

His outlook was not always so bright. Growing up with a difficult environment in Brooklyn with his Puerto Rican family, Nuñez said his father was an alcoholic when he was a child. Although his upbringing may have been tough, he said he remembers going deep-sea fishing at the pier in Long Island with his father. There they spent some of the greatest moments in his childhood.

Now with a family of his own, Nuñez said he loves spending time with his wife of 21 years, and his son and daughter. He said he likes to take his family on vacation to the rain forests of Puerto Rico. He has also traveled to Italy, Greece, Hawaii and Ireland.

As a youngster, Nuñez dreamed of becoming a veterinarian and was accepted to Cornell University.

“I left Cornell after one semester and had a couple of odd jobs here and there, one being a veterinary assistant,” he said. “It was obviously not for me. I decided to join the Navy instead in January 1985.”

Nuñez earned an Associate’s degree in agriculture from the State University of New York and a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Technology. He is also an avid runner.

“I enjoy working out,” he said. “I work out five days a week and on top of that, I also run five miles three days a week. I run a mile in five minutes.”

Something only close childhood friends know about Nuñez is that he participates in pigeon racing, a popular sport in New York. People release trained racing pigeons, which then return to their homes over a carefully-measured distance. Nuñez, a competitive man, knows all the different pigeon breeds.

“I am also the proud owner of a 1977 Chevy Corvette,” he adds. “It’s cherry red, 95 percent restored and in great shape.”

Andre Harris, administrative secretary at the NC HEC, said Nuñez is a consummate professional.

“Now that he is a civilian full-time and a lieutenant commander in the Navy part-time, I have noticed that he brings his leadership skills into the MLT program,” said Harris, himself a vet.

And, as a five-minute miler and Corvette driver, he is hard to keep up with.

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