FIU Business alumni donate nearly $600K to improve students’ lives


FIU Business alumni donate nearly $600K to improve students’ lives.

For Frank Gonzalez and Barbara Pestana Cartaya, investing in FIU College of Business students is an important way to give back.

Thanks to their education and years of hard work, these FIU Business alumni rose from humble beginnings to great achievement. Along with their families, they believe that supporting today’s students is a promise to themselves they now want to fulfill.

Their generosity, along with that of an anonymous donor, will provide nearly $600,000 in new funding for scholarships and programs to support student success.

“So many of our alumni can relate to the financial challenges our students face as they study at FIU Business,” said Dean Joanne Li. “We are so grateful that as they achieve success in the business world, they devote precious resources to providing the financial support that is integral to student success.”

Frank and Maria Gonzalez – Dean’s Excellence Fund

Frank Gonzalez
Frank Gonzalez

Frank Gonzalez received his BBA and MBA from FIU and went on to a distinguished career in public accounting. He is now managing principal and audit practice leader at MBAF, South Florida’s largest accounting practice by volume. At FIU Business’ spring 2018 commencement ceremony, he was honored with the Outstanding Alumnus FIU Medallion.

In an estate gift, he and his wife Maria, a fellow FIU graduate, donated $250,000 to the Dean’s Excellence Fund, which provides accessible funds for the FIU Business’s most pressing needs, including completion scholarships for seniors who need help in order to graduate. Estate gifts such as Gonzalez’ are an opportunity for donors to leave a lasting legacy.

“The College of Business gave Maria and me our start,” Gonzalez said. “We want to help the school as much as we can, especially with new initiatives that are in development, such as the BizPass app that Dean Li is launching.” BizPass is a unique student engagement app that allows students to build their professional skills and network as they get credit for attending events–and earn rewards in the process.

The Gonzalez family’s wide-ranging goals were an excellent match for the Dean’s Excellence Fund. “We want to create additional opportunities to get more business majors into the school,” he said. “We want to focus our gift on creating more scholarships, and supporting whatever initiatives are necessary to make FIU Business more prominent.”

The Charles and Barbara Cartaya First Generation Scholarship

Barbara Pestana Cartaya
Barbara Pestana Cartaya

Barbara Pestana Cartaya, a member of the FIU Business Alumni Board, and her husband Charles, vice president of operations at Park West Gallery, met as students at FIU.

“Both my husband and I were among the first generation in our families to graduate college, and tuition assistance changed our lives,” Cartaya said.

They awarded the FIU Foundation a $25,000 donation over the course of five years to establish the Charles and Barbara Cartaya First Generation Scholarship, targeting undergraduate students who are the first generation in their family to attain a college degree. Pestana Cartaya is an executive at a pharmaceutical and cosmetics firm; her husband leads a fine arts dealership.

Thanks to several matching funds, the $25,000 will be multiplied many times. A match from Cartaya’s employer will serve to triple the donation, and an additional 200 percent match from the State of Florida’s First Generation Matching Grant Program will raise the impact of the scholarship to $225,000. It will be distributed over the course of five years.

“Our goal,” Cartaya said, “is to help others in our situation finish their degree, pursue a career and improve their lives.”

Inspiring Futures Mentor Program, The JCB Hope Initiative at FIU Business

For the past 10 years, FIU Business has organized a popular mentoring program. Mentors are matched one-on-one with current students to share career advice and valuable insight into the transition to careers and the post–college world. Students build career networks and get first-person insights on how to become better professionals and leaders.

Since its relaunch in 2014, the program has grown substantially, matching nearly 1,500 students and mentors as of this year.

An anonymous alumni donor who became aware of the success and impact of the program recently provided a $100,000 gift to support the program over the next five years. In recognition of the gift, the program has been renamed Inspiring Futures Mentor Program, The JCB Hope Initiative at FIU Business. Funding will support management and operations of the program, enable it to scale up through the use of software and better tracking program metrics, such as student placements in internships and full-time opportunities and graduation rates for participants.

“Mentoring changes lives,” said Yanyn San Luis, who, as director of alumni relations, led the relaunch of the program. “So many of our alumni can trace their success back to their relationship with a mentor. We are so grateful for the insight of our generous donor, who shares our vision of expanding the program and the life-changing relationships it supports.”