skip to Main Content
Fighter Pilot Turned MC Librarian Earns Five AA Degrees After Immigrating From Peru

The near silence of a campus library, the serenity of an art gallery in the Peruvian Embassy, and the ear-popping roar of a “Dragonfly”A-37B fighter jet … For Gonzalo Gilardi-Magnan, the path to Montgomery College—and US citizenship—has been long but enlightening.

Before emigrating to the United States in 1990, Gilardi-Magnan enjoyed a privileged upbringing in Peru, served as a fighter pilot in the Peruvian Air Force, earned a bachelor’s and master’s equivalent degree, and crisscrossed Europe for six months after retiring from military service in 1989.

Gilardi-Magnan has worked at the Rockville Campus library since 1991

“The situation in Peru was very unstable in the late 80s and early 90s,” Gilardi said. His sister, a student at Catholic University in Washington, suggested he come to the United States and study. He exchanged his tourist visa for a student visa and enrolled at MC. Gilardi worked as a student aide for six months at the Rockville Library before he was hired there as a permanent part-time employee. He has held the job since 1992.

During the 18 years that followed, Gilardi completed associate’s degrees in architectural technology, studio art, computer applications, hospitality management, and theatre performance, which he switched to after starting a music degree.

I enjoyed each stage. That’s the growth, the strength, and the fun of life

While pursuing his studio art degree, he learned numerous artistic techniques, from acrylics to sculpture, and his personal favorite, lithography. Gilardi has created hundreds of pieces over the years and still goes into the art studio to work each week. His work was featured in a solo exhibition at the Peruvian Embassy from December 2018 through February this year.

Gilardi (left) and Consuelo Salinas de Pareja, Peruvian Ambassador to the U.S. Carlos Pareja’s spouse

“It was really nice because it has allowed me to see my work in a setting that not everyone has the opportunity to display in. I don’t promote my art. My intention was not to sell. My intention is to promote the medium,” Gilardi said. “I’m a portraitist, so I get to define individuals through their eyes. That is how you show what the person was experiencing at the time of the drawing.”

After many hurdles, Gilardi received his permanent residency in 2009. One month after the 2016 presidential election, he became a US citizen.

“I enjoyed each stage. That’s the growth, the strength, and the fun of life,” Gilardi said. “I still need to do a lot. I enjoy life, I mean, who doesn’t enjoy life?”

Back To Top