Alumnus writer, editor sending his last pages to press
Arizona Daily Star
June 25, 2005

Ernesto Portillo Jr.


Wildcat Nation is far flung. It touches nearly every continent and exists in 150 countries.
For the past 21 years, Nogales native Jay M. Rochlin has kept members of Wildcat Nation connected to the University of Arizona - and to each other.
Rochlin is editor, writer and photographer of Arizona Alumnus, the monthly magazine produced by the UA Alumni Association. On Thursday the 54-year-old Rochlin, who also doubles as the association's vice president, will vacate his office at the Swede Johnson Building at East Speedway and North Cherry Avenue.
He will leave behind the many stories he wrote about the myriad Wildcat alumni scattered across the globe.
"The chance to tell a story about the university is as exciting then as it is today," he said. "It still astounds me that UA people are in every walk of life."
From heads of major corporations to U.S. senators and state governors, from artists and writers to engineers working in Africa to bring potable water to isolated villages, the magazine has profiled scores of UA alumni and their accomplishments.
When Rochlin first sat down to tell a Wildcat story for the magazine in March of 1984, he had no computer. His office didn't even have an electric typewriter.
So he turned to his old black Royal manual typewriter, which he had bought some years earlier, to write his first two stories.
"I thought it was great, actually," he said of those days when writers wrote on paper.
That typewriter, with clear beveled glass sides, through which the inner workings can be seen, still sits on his desk as a reminder of his pre-electronic days.
In addition to highlighting UA alumni, Rochlin strove to bring current issues to the magazine. He wanted to balance social and political issues with profiles of UA alumni and staffers.
"That will always be a tension for whoever sits in this chair," he said.
Rochlin's journalism began in Nogales, where he grew up. He worked for an English-language radio station after graduating from Nogales High School in 1968 and through his student years at the UA. He later worked for local television stations as producer and assignment editor.
Rochlin's instinctive journalistic curiosity led him to explore ambos Nogales, the two towns north and south of the line, and to examine the cultural crevices that separated them.
He was a minority among a minority. His paternal grandparents fled the anti-Semitic pogroms a couple of years before the outbreak of the Russian Revolution. His grandparents moved in 1917 to Nogales, where political refugees from Mexico were escaping another revolution.
Rochlin's Yiddish-speaking grandparents found a common bond with their Spanish-speaking neighbors.
"My grandparents learned Spanish before they learned English," Rochlin said. But he laments he did not learn Spanish.
Growing up in Nogales he saw racism heaped on Spanish-speaking Mexican kids in school. "It wasn't said out loud but the message was clear," Rochlin said.
It was this experience, in part, that led him to his doctoral dissertation on race relations at the UA. He examined the experience of minority alumni who attended the UA from 1925 to 1995.
His dissertation led to the 1997 book, "Race and Class on Campus: Conversations with Ricardo's Daughter," published by UA Press.
Rochlin, who has a son at the UA, plans to continue writing and expanding his photography skills.
"I'm ready for the next adventure," he said.
● Ernesto Portillo Jr.'s column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Reach him at 573-4242 or at He appears on "Arizona Illustrated," KUAT-TV Channel 6, at 6:30 p.m. and midnight Fridays.