In November 2013, the passing of Manuel Jorge Cutillas, Class of 1955, resulted in the loss of a distinguished Rensselaer alumnus and advocate for higher education, particularly for students of Latin American or Caribbean descent.
Bacardi Family & Rensselaer
Cutillas, who was born in Cuba in 1932, was the great-great grandson of Don Facundo Bacardi, the founder of the Bacardi company. Cutillas wasn’t the first Bacardi family member to attend Rensselaer, nor the last; his distant cousin, Luis J. Bacardi Gaillard, graduated from Rensselaer in 1918, and his cousin, Adolfo Danguillecourt, graduated in 1983.
In 1955, Cutillas received his Rensselaer degree in chemical engineering and moved back to Cuba to begin his 45 year career with Bacardi. As chairman of Bacardi Limited from 1992 to 2000, Cutillas was instrumental in doubling the size of the company and growing Bacardi into the global entity it is today.
Throughout his successful career, Cutillas was mindful of where he came from and how important his Rensselaer education was. In 2007, he made a generous gift to Rensselaer to establish the Manuel J. Cutillas ’55 Scholarship for deserving students from the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Latin America, or for students of Cuban descent. His generosity has helped several students thus far, at the same time extending the global reach and impact of the Institute.
I hope that someday I will be able to do what he did for me and other young Hispanos from Latin America and, in particular, to expand the support to university students from Peru.
Salvador Gavonel ’13
Salvador Gavonel ’13, B.S. Industrial Engineering, and past recipient of the Manuel J. Cutillas ’55 Scholarship, said, “I did not have the opportunity to meet Mr. Cutillas, but through the generosity he extended to young Hispanos from Latin America, I’ve come to realize that he was a gentleman with great pride and vision regarding Hispanic heritage. Thanks to his support, I completed my course of study at Rensselaer and have returned to Peru. I hope that someday I will be able to do what he did for me and other young Hispanos from Latin America and, in particular, to expand the support to university students from Peru.”
Cutillas also was influential in the lives of his fellow Latin American classmates during his undergraduate years as a member of Phi Iota Alpha, the oldest Latino fraternity in existence. He served as president of the fraternity during his junior and senior years, during which time, they acquired a house. In The Transit, 1955, a passage about the fraternity said, “Our good hopes for the future are based on the good will of the Latin American students coming to RPI.”
Nearly 60 years later, Cutillas’ impact on Latin American students pursuing educations at Rensselaer endures through his scholarship support.