First-year business student and Consortium fellow Alejandro Bolívar-Cervoni knew from a young age he wanted to get his MBA. And he knew how it could happen, thanks to Consortium family ties with his uncle, a 1980 Consortium graduate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“My earliest introduction to the business world was actually through my Uncle Roberto, who went into business with my dad,” said Alejandro, a student concentrating in marketing at Washington University in St. Louis. And Roberto isn’t the only one in the family with Consortium ties.
(Note: The Consortium has begun a blog series following Alejandro and four other first-years through B-school.)
Roberto A. Oliver, Alejandro’s uncle, is vice president at Caribe Pallets & Packaging Corporation in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. The company buys timber in the United States, cuts it to size and produces pallets and other wood products for shipping goods. The 18-person company has contracts with companies such as Pfizer, Merck, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola. They source their wood products locally and yield revenues between $2 million and $3 million annually.
Consortium Family Ties
Roberto’s cousin, Jose Bolivar, is Alejandro’s father and the company’s president. Though technically, that makes Roberto the first-cousin-once-removed to Alejandro, the WashU student says he’s always thought of Roberto as an uncle.
Alejandro is also related to Guillermo Garau, a 2007 Consortium fellow from Indiana University-Bloomington. They consider themselves cousins: Alejandro’s father is the brother of Guillermo’s uncle’s wife. And Guillermo’s wife, Liz Lopez, is a 2008 Consortium fellow from Indiana.
Today, Guillermo is a mergers-and-acquisitions consultant for PwC and Liz works as a finance director for Grünenthal Group, both in Miami. Alejandro is one among five people Guillermo has referred for Consortium membership. “When he was looking at it, I said, ‘Look, this is the best deal I see for anyone getting an MBA,'” he said.
Alejandro’s family settled in Puerto Rico after fleeing the Castro regime in Cuba in 1960. Roberto, born Jan. 20, 1953, was about 7 when the family left. Alejandro remembers Roberto being heavily involved in the stock market and passing his knowledge about the markets and other business news to the next generation.
Roberto had graduated with an engineering degree from Georgia Tech in 1975, and returned to Puerto Rico where he worked for a pharmaceutical company. “An engineering school will teach you how to solve problems, but it doesn’t teach you a lot about business,” he said. He started taking night-school courses in business locally, “but I found out I was passing without learning, so I stopped doing that.”
Passing His Dream Along
Roberto had long dreamed of starting his own business and found a possible key to that dream when Consortium recruiters, including then-Associate Director Wally Jones, arrived in Puerto Rico looking for potential students. He applied to only one school, UNC. He was thrilled when the phone rang in the spring of 1978 and Jones was on the other end of the line, telling him he’d been accepted to both The Consortium and UNC.
“The tuition was a big deal for me,” Roberto said. “I really appreciated The Consortium as well as UNC for providing me that opportunity.”
Seven years after after graduating, returning to Puerto Rico, and working as a consultant for then-Ernst & Whinney, Roberto saw the chance with Jose Bolivar to take over the wood-products company.
“I’ve really been able to use my MBA education quite well, for my professional career as well as individually in order to create net worth for my family,” he said.
Alejandro gets the opportunity often to visit and speak with his uncle as he makes good on his own dream of getting an MBA. They recently met in New York City (see photo above) for a chance to catch up.
“The biggest word that my uncle would use to describe The Consortium was diversity,” Alejandro said. “He loved being able to connect with students from all over the country and so many cultural backgrounds. That, to him, was very important.”