On a day in October 1985, Luz Nagle crouched behind her desk as a man reached for his gun.She grabbed the loaded .38 she kept in her drawer, then rolled out into view and shot the man in the leg.
Nagle, now a professor at Stetson University, gave a lecture titled “Courage, Dedication, and Conviction: One Woman’s Journey,” telling stories of death threats and assassination attempts – such as the one mentioned -and her desire to be educated in law.
Nagle told her inspiring tale of her time as a municipal judge in her native Colombia to a small crowd in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Ballroom as part of the University Lecture Series.
Inspired by poverty at a young age in the streets of Medellin, Colombia, Nagle knew she would do anything to help the underprivileged. But to help others, Nagle decided that she needed to be educated, so she went to law school.
But law school wasn’t easy for a woman in Colombia.
“The attrition rate was very high,” Nagle said. “Most females didn’t make it through. After that, it was either become a secretary for a (male) classmate or become a municipal judge -which would be risking your life.”
Being a judge in Colombia required Nagle to go head-to-toe with several members of the Colombian cocaine cartel.
After Nagle survived several attempts on her life and had to defend herself against the man in her office, she decided to head for the United States. From there, Nagle received law degrees from UCLA and William and Mary, and it inspired her to enter academia and tell others her story.
Nagle found her way to Stetson, where she became the first Hispanic full-time professor in the school’s 104-year-old history.
Many of the small crowd were students, and they were impressed with Nagle’s lecture.Georgi Petrov, a freshman chemistry major, was one of those students, even though he attended the lecture because of a class requirement.
“It was interesting,” Petrov said. “She’s a great woman. She was forced to quit a lot of times, but she never quit.”
For Diana Antolinez, a senior microbiology major, the lecture had special meaning.
“She’s Colombian, I’m Colombian,” said Antolinez, who is also the vice president of the Latin American Student Association (LASA). “She’s come so far I want to be a doctor. It’s funny because we come from similar backgrounds; I was also upper-middle class, especially being a women and Colombian, I’m just inspired.”
Nagle was hoping she could impart some of her experiences and pass on some of her life’s lessons to the students in attendance.
“Life is not easy,” Nagle said. “Sometimes we fall down, sometimes we feel frustrated, but just get up and walk, and look to the goal that you have set.”