Whether he’s telling South Florida high schoolers about Fordham, doing community service with fellow Miami-area alumni, or on campus for Board of Trustees meetings, Luis San Miguel, GSB ’81, said being an active alumnus is a natural way for him to give back.
“It’s really just that desire to help others and an acknowledgement of the generosity that others had toward us,” San Miguel said.
From Cuba to Fordham
Nine-year-old San Miguel came to the United States in 1968 when his family fled Havana, Cuba, for Miami. He remembers lining up at the grocery store at 4 and 5 o’clock in the morning to collect a loaf of bread before the store’s daily ration was depleted.
Looking back, he said he recognizes the immense sacrifice his parents made in choosing to immigrate to the United States with almost no chance of ever returning home.
“My parents left Cuba when they were in their late 30s with four kids, and basically left with the clothes on their back and nothing else,” he said.
In Miami, San Miguel and his family were touched by the generosity of the Catholic Church toward the Cuban immigrants settling there. San Miguel also grew up with a strong sense of the value of education within his culture.
“Beyond putting food on the table and a roof over their family’s head, the next thing the Cuban immigrants of the 1960s earned money for was to provide an education for their kids,” he said.
When it came time to pursue his own college education, San Miguel decided on a change of location—and climate—and headed north to Fordham’s Rose Hill campus in New York City. The son of an accountant, San Miguel was excited to study business in the nation’s financial capital.
“I just have very fond memories,” he said. “You walk in there as 17- and 18-year-old kids, and you come out as 21- or 22-year-old men and women.”
A Family Commitment to Fordham
After graduation from Fordham, San Miguel returned to Miami to work with KPMG. His career in business has included stints as the CFO for KPMG Strategic Services, and financial leadership roles at Burger King and a technology startup.
After years of managing finance, San Miguel translated his entrepreneurial experience to running businesses, recently as the CEO of TOMS King Holdings LLC, and currently as CEO of a new food services corporation focused on fresh dining options.
From his early days back in Miami, San Miguel was eager to give back to Fordham. His brother Jorge, GSB ’82, is also a proud alumnus, and the two staffed recruitment tables at college fairs to get the word out about Fordham.
Now as a member of the Board of Trustees, San Miguel is committed to sharing his business experience and Miami expertise to help advance Fordham’s future.
“The University’s expanding in a broader way, and I think there’s a greater willingness in kids in South Florida to attend college in the Northeast than there was when I was a kid,” he said.
San Miguel has hosted freshman summer send-offs and admitted student yield events at his home and has also been instrumental in the launch of a second Fordham alumni chapter in South Florida.
The Fordham Alumni Chapter of Miami is working to increase the involvement of younger alumni in the South Florida area. Launched this February, the chapter has already hosted a successful networking event and a community service outreach.
Luis San Miguel’s eldest son, Louie, GSB ’10, GBA ’11, is a part of the Miami Chapter and involved with recruitment events. He said his father’s commitment to the ideals of Fordham has helped encourage him to give back.
“He believes in the Fordham experience and wants other parents to see their children thrive in the success of Fordham,” Louie said.
Gratitude that Leads to Giving Back
Luis San Miguel’s deep involvement as a Fordham alumnus has helped to advance Fordham’s future. San Miguel said it’s a natural response to give back to the university that helped make him the person he is today.
“At Fordham, I developed a very strong sense of accountability and acceptance for risk-taking,” he said. “And the more successful people from a business perspective generally tend to embrace risk more than the average person does.”
Luis served as the alumni banner bearer during his son’s 2010 commencement ceremony. He said he will never forget the look on his own father’s face that day.
“I saw my dad as I was walking down the aisle, and the look on his face—he felt like all the effort and difficulty that he’d gone through to leave his own country was worth it,” he said.
“For my dad to see that my brother and I, and his oldest grandson, had graduated from a prestigious university like Fordham, this was another very strong validation that he had made the right decision.”
by Jennifer Spencer