New endowment will help Special Education students thrive
Inspired by his late wife and a career change late in life, alumnus Eddy Reyes establishes a scholarship to help aspiring teachers make a difference.
This story appears in the winter 2022 issue of RED Magazine.
Eddy Reyes knows it’s never too late to change careers — and lives.
Following a successful career in advertising, Reyes shifted gears in his 60s, earning a degree in Special Education from Metropolitan State University of Denver. He taught fourth and fifth grade with Denver Public Schools for 18 years. Now in his 80s, he’s putting on his philanthropist hat and giving back to the community by honoring his late wife through the Arlen M. Selu Special Education Memorial Endowment — the first scholarship at MSU Denver for students studying Special Education.
Born and raised in Nicaragua, Reyes came to the U.S. in 1953 to attend Loyola University of Los Angeles (now Loyola Marymount University). After college, he carved out a niche as a successful graphic designer in Denver’s advertising scene. When Reyes got a job working on Denver Dry Goods’ first fashion catalog in the early 1970s, he knew the perfect photographer: Gus King.
Only there was no actual Gus King. Reyes created the alias from his middle name, Gustavo, and the English translation of his last name and stepped into a new phase in his career as a photographer.
When digital photography gained traction in the early ’90s, Reyes dissolved Reyes Studio Inc. Nearly 60 years old, he wandered his empty studio “lost and confused,” said his wife, Arlen Marie Selu, who was a special-education teacher and 20-year veteran of Denver Public Schools.
“One day, she said she thought I would make a great teacher,” he recalled. “It planted a seed.”
The father of five decided to go back to school at MSU Denver, where his daughter (and later, grandsons) was earning her degree. He and his wife, who had retired to attend graduate school, sold their house to pay tuition, moved into the former photo studio and spent the next four years as busy students.
“I was the oldest student in my classes and enjoyed every moment,” Reyes said. “Being at MSU Denver was a rich, happy and stimulating experience. What a treat!”
After earning a degree in Elementary Education with a bilingual endorsement in 1997, Reyes taught with DPS for 18 years, primarily at Place Bridge Academy, where teachers and staff continue to serve immigrant children.
“Forty-five languages were spoken in the building, and many students hadn’t been in a classroom (prior to being there),” he said. “We guided them through these new experiences.”
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Two encounters inspired Reyes to establish the Arlen M. Selu Special Education Memorial Endowment.
First, there was a serendipitous reunion with a former student who expressed gratitude for how Reyes had changed her life. (“I wish every teacher could have that type of validating experience,” he said of the feedback.) Then, Reyes learned of a friend’s experience founding a scholarship at MSU Denver in honor of her late husband, who was also a teacher. “I wanted to do the same for Arlen,” he said.
Reyes hopes the scholarship will plant seeds for the next generation of Special Education students at the University.
“It takes a special person who loves kids to go into special education,” he said. “I want to help eager, hardworking students receive the support they need.”