While a student at Columbia Business School, Arnoldo Villafuerte ’72 learned about and came to believe in the strong impact of private investment not just on the economy but on the social fabric of a community.
“The way to address social problems is to invest in people,” says Villafuerte, who today serves as president of logistics and market intelligence firm Urbano Express de El Salvador. “In the private sector, we can do a lot — by creating jobs, creating foundations, investing in human capital. That’s what I learned in business school, and that’s what motivated me to stay involved in the Business School.”
On Wednesday, September 16, Villafuerte will welcome alumni from all over Central America to El Salvador for the 2015 Worldwide Alumni Club Event (WACE), where he will unveil a new scholarship he created that aims to spur investment — of capital, talent, and industry — in his region. The Isabel Villafuerte Scholarship Fund, named in honor of his mother — “I owe what I’ve done in life to my mother and Columbia Business School,” he says — is a need-based award that supports at least one student a year, preferring candidates who have lived, worked, or studied in Central America. The hope, Villafuerte says, is that these graduates will return to the region and invest in it with new business.
“That is the way we solve our problems,” he says. “In the ’80s, we went through several revolutions here. This political unsettledness is a factor in the region’s poverty, lack of opportunities, and all kinds of problems. The private sector has got to get involved. We have to get new people, new blood to carry the torch forward.”
Villafuerte hopes the free WACE event, which features a networking reception and remarks by Sebastian Ortiz ’09, vice president of the Alumni Club of Central America, will also help boost the School’s presence and strengthen the alumni community in Central America. Not only will this create further investment in the region, Villafuerte says, but it will also help propel and solidify Columbia’s global impact for the next 100 years.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to expand the club’s footprint throughout Central America,” he says. “I surely want to leave a better country than I had when I was born. You have to leave a better world for following generations.”