William Vèlez had no interest in mathematics in high school, although he was fairly good at it. Had he told anyone then that he would become a mathematician, no one would have believed him.
Vèlez began his undergraduate studies in chemical engineering at the University of Arizona, but he had philosophical differences with the engineering school. He dropped calculus his first semester and took pre-calculus instead. After passing one semester of calculus with a "C," Vèlez enrolled in the second semester of calculus, earning an "A." He then took differential equations. Finding that he liked mathematics and was good at it, he decided in his sophomore year to get a Ph.D. in either mathematics or physics. Vèlez carefully examined the curriculum of both fields. Physics required a lot of laboratory work. His experiments never worked so he decided not to get his Ph.D. in physics.
According to Vèlez, "One of the wonderful things about the mathematical community is being around some of the smartest people in the world. Mathematicians can do anything."
Since earning his Ph.D. in mathematics Vèlez has become a professor at the University of Arizona, and Director of the Southwest Regional Institute in Mathematical Sciences. The goal of this institute is the integration of research and Education. He has also worked with the Navy creating communication systems for submarines, holding patents on two of the systems and patents pending on two more.
Vèlez is concerned about and involved with increasing the number of Chicano students in mathematics and the sciences. He has a desire to get the Latino community to think of Education in general and the importance of Education. Vèlez remarks, "Ignorance is a heavy load to bear and it weighs you down."