Corpuz ’89: The Science Behind the Magic
Making magic is what Jose Corpuz ’89 does. A systems engineer at Disney, he begins with sky-is-the-limit ideas designed by creative teams and figures out the behind-the-scenes practical applications. His end products are the rides and shows enjoyed by countless Disney park visitors worldwide.
His cadetship was not nearly as snazzy as his current job. Corpuz was a serious, quiet student who – minus his participation in band activities – spent his time in barracks concentrating on academics.
“My roommates remember me as the guy who sat in his room studying,” he recalled. “I had no life. I was pretty happy being able to get into a book and trying to work problems out.”
Part of Corpuz’s attitude toward education stemmed from his mother’s influence. The youngest of four children, he was born in the Philippines. His mother, sponsored by her sister, immigrated to the U.S. when Corpuz was very young. While he was growing up, she placed a heavy emphasis on the value and necessity of education.
“My mother had very high expectations of us,” he said, noting that most parents of teenagers begin conversations about the future by talking about choices following high school. “My mother would start our conversations with, ‘Let’s talk about what graduate school you’re going to – and how you’re going to pay for it.’”
Corpuz had looked at the service academies, including the U.S. Military Academy, but was temporarily ineligible for West Point after knee surgery in high school. That’s when VMI came calling with a full-ride Institute Scholarship in hand. Corpuz came to VMI courtesy of the Harry A. deButts ’916 Merit Scholarship. His mother was almost “dancing” when she heard about VMI’s scholarship offer, he remembered. “She loved it, because it allowed her to concentrate on the other kids.”
At VMI, he learned that he “loved being an engineer” and decided to go into the private sector. VMI was “an incredible experience,” he said, noting that he still uses the fundamental tools he learned – and earned – at the Institute. Included among those skills is a way of doing things, of getting the job done, of seeing a need and meeting it – whether it falls under the job description or not.
“I kept my word. I got there on time. I keep a set of core values that still provide me advantages,” Corpuz said, explaining the effect of a solid reputation built over time. “Every time you do something, you keep your word, you show character, you show poise, you show leadership – it’s a deposit in your ‘bank of reputation.’”
Following his VMI graduation, Corpuz moved back to Illinois, where he was raised, to attend graduate school. There, he found a part time job at a small virtual reality simulator manufacturer and operator called Virtual World Entertainment. It didn’t pay much, but for broke graduate-student Corpuz, unlimited free games after closing more than made up for the paycheck. Though he was hired as a ride operator, he soon found himself helping out in an engineering capacity, often maintaining the rides. “Most of the staff there knew I was an engineer,” he said.