Avon’s Jose Guzman, 61, earns his anthropology degree from CSU | VailDaily.com

Avon’s Jose Guzman, 61, earns his anthropology degree from CSU

Tony Phifer
Special to the Daily

FORT COLLINS — By almost any definition, Jose Guzman is a non-traditional college student.

The 61-year-old Avon resident has worked his way through careers in electronics and business and, quite frankly, could have retired. Instead, he chose to purse a third career — in anthropology — with a degree from CSU Online. He graduates this month.

"My next-door neighbor in Avon is retired and he has a very beautiful garden," Guzman said. "That's fine, but I couldn't do that. I need other things, and for me getting back to school and pursuing my passion was the answer."

Guzman, the son of a Peruvian father and American mother, grew up in Lima. Fascinated with Peru's history, he and some friends hitchhiked to the base of Machu Picchu when he was in high school. Seeing the legendary Incan citadel for the first time was a transformative experience, he said.

“My next-door neighbor in Avon is retired and he has a very beautiful garden. That’s fine, but I couldn’t do that. I need other things, and for me getting back to school and pursuing my passion was the answer.”Jose GuzmanAvon

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"It was a very special place to me," he said. "I became very interested in the relationship between the people and the place. Who were they? How did they live? How did they build this amazing place? What did they believe in?"

While still in high school, Guzman participated in an archaeological dig in the Cusco region, where he discovered a burial site and uncovered a mummy.

"From that moment I was sold on what I wanted to do with my life," he said.

Life, though, has a funny way of ignoring dreams and steering us toward the practical. Guzman was no exception. He worked in digital technology for more than a decade before launching a business career. Along the way he worked as a ski instructor in Vail, among other successful business ventures.

All the while, he was drawn to his first love, anthropology. So, when he learned about the degree program offered by CSU Online, he threw himself into his studies.

"I have been hiking the Inca Trail since the 1980s; it is fantastic, and I never get tired of it," he said. "But thanks to what I learned through CSU Online, my mission has changed. Instead of focusing on the mountains and buildings, I look at the beliefs of the people and what their lives were like."

In 2015, Guzman led a tour of Machu Picchu and the surrounding region, and now plans to lead more tours. He hopes to utilize the profits to fund studies of the indigenous peoples of the region and help them preserve their centuries-old culture. He has a particular interest in shamanism and would like to study medical anthropology in graduate school.

"My interest is in discovering, in studying the things that fascinate me," he says. "I want to study these people and learn all I can about them."

So, rather than digging in a garden, you will find Guzman digging into the past — following his passion.

Tony Phifer is a communications specialist with Colorado State University. Contact him at Tony.Phifer@colostate.edu.