Recently promoted to chief credit officer at Baker Boyer Bank, Rosendo Guizar ’94 has been rising through the ranks at the Walla Walla-based financial institution for years. But he says the credit for his success goes back even further than his 22 years of experience at the bank—to the encouragement and guidance he received from his high school librarian, Darcy Judd Wyant Ahlquist ’54.
“She’s been extremely supportive of me, more than I can ever repay her for,” says Guizar.
As a bookish student at Grandview High School in Grandview, Washington, Guizar often found himself reading the newspaper in the school library. That’s how he first connected with Ahlquist, who always made a point of checking in with her students. She talked to him about his classes and grades, helped him volunteer as a tutor for other students and, eventually, encouraged him to think about his future.
“She started asking me about my plans for after high school,” says Guizar. “I think she kind of took it upon herself to guide me along and show me that there were more options out there, rather than just going to get a job straight out of high school.”
Understanding his potential, Ahlquist took Guizar to a prospective student day at Whitman. She joined him for presentations and to listen in on a class. Whitman was immediately compelling to Guizar for the small class sizes and compact campus. Steadily, college felt like a tangible option to Guizar, and Ahlquist was happy when he took her advice to apply for admission.
Guizar admits that it wasn’t always easy being a first-generation college student. The classes were very different from his high school, and typical first-year challenges, like homesickness, tested his grit. What motivated him was a responsibility to his younger siblings to model what was possible.
“If I were to quit or if I could not do it, I think I would have demoralized their goals. I especially remember thinking ‘I cannot quit, I have to keep going.’”
Climbing the Career Ladder
After his graduation from Whitman, Guizar decided to apply to an entry-level position as a commercial loan assistant at Baker Boyer Bank, even though he did not have finance experience and had only taken one economics class.
“Whitman is well known here in this community. When I applied to work at Baker Boyer, it was probably one of the reasons I was able to get my foot in the door.”
Guizar says the challenging curriculum at Whitman helped shape the work ethic he has today. And although he majored in biochemistry at Whitman, he has found his skills in analysis and math to be incredibly valuable to his banking career.
“Even if they are not directly the same, the methodology is something similar. Everybody majors in economics or finance, so everybody has a very similar mindset as a result. I come at things with a completely different point of view.”
Guizar and Ahlquist have remained in contact over the years through visits and greeting cards—Ahlquist even attended Guizar’s wedding. She remembers her jovial surprise reading about Guizar’s promotions in “150 Years a Pioneer,” a commemorative book published for Baker Boyer Bank’s 2019 anniversary, and writing to congratulate him.
“He strives to compete—almost with himself—in order to get ahead,” Ahlquist says. “He’s my success story.”