1976 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Be enthusiastic, determine to succeed, and love your country."
Born in Cuba, Carlos Arboleya was the son of a watchmaker. When he was eight, Arboleya's father lost his larynx due to cancer and because of the stress this placed on the family, Arboleya was sent to live with an aunt in Brooklyn. He attended public school there and graduated from Stuyvesant High School.
He returned to Cuba after high school to help his family financially. He attended the University of Havana and earned degrees in business administration, commercial and administrative law, and accounting and commercial sciences. He worked as an office boy for Havana CitiCorp and by the end of 11 years he was serving as the bank's manager of its trust and fiduciary department. He then joined Havana's Banco Continental Cubano, Cuba's largest bank. He worked there as chief auditor until Fidel Castro's revolution took power and confiscated all the banks. Less than one month later, Arboleya left Cuba with his wife and small son. They made their way to Miami with only $40.
Unable to find work in the banking industry, Arboleya took a job as an inventory clerk in a shore factory. Soon, he worked his way up to vice president. At that point, he was finally given the opportunity to re-enter the field he held closest to his heart: banking. In only seven years, Arboleya was named the first naturalized Cuban-American president of a national bank in the United States. Subsequently, he founded his own bank, the Flagler Bank, now a part of Bank of America. After selling his interests in that financial institution, he joined Barnett Bank in 1974, which is also now a part of Bank of America. He rose to the position of vice chairman and chief operating officer in 1981, a position he held until his retirement in 1994. He went on to serve as a director and chairman of the Executive Committee until 1996.
In addition to his successful banking career in Miami, Carlos Arboleya has dedicated his energies to working for the advancement and guidance of youth. His 45-year involvement in the Scouting movement is proof of his tireless commitment. The Carlos J. Arboleya Camping and Picnic Grounds were named after him in recognition of his 37 years of leadership in Scouting. He is the recipient of Scouting's highest awards, including the Silver Beaver and the Silver Antelope. The Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement was presented in recognition of his outstanding example in inspiring youth. In 1995, he became president of the Boy Scouts of America South Florida Council. He is also the recipient of the St. George Award from The National Catholic Committee on Scouting.
Arboleya is a five-time recipient of the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge George Washington Honor Medal and the Ellis Island Statue of Liberty Honor Medal. He had the honor of having a portion of SW Eighth Street in Miami named the Carlos Arboleya Boulevard.
Arboleya's advice for today's young people is to work hard, work harder, and keep on working until you reach your goals. He says his feelings for the Horatio Alger Award are "indescribable." He adds, "It symbolizes the great American dream. Receiving it recognizes my pride and belief in this great country."