By:Geoff Bergman Issue: Biennial of the Americas 2010 Section:The Americas Roundtables
Never Losing Hope
Dr. Paul R. Latortue, Dean of the School of Business Administration at the University of Puerto Rico, recently returned from Haiti, where he was lending help and support to his fellow Haitians facing an uphill battle in the wake of the devastating earthquake in January, 2010. Although Dr. Latortue has spent many years working in Puerto Rico, he has never forgotten his roots and has always kept close ties with Haiti and its people. He attended the Biennial to discuss the importance of philanthropy and how everyone can take part and find benefit from participating in it. He brought a message that countries like Haiti need aid now more than ever and that help and support when such devastating events occur is critically important.
Dr. Latortue, although born in Haiti, earned all of his degrees outside its borders. Initially he received his Bachelor’s in Economics in 1969 from Inter-American University, Puerto Rico. Staying at the University for another year he received his Masters in Finance and Marketing. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Latortue traveled to the United States to study for his doctorate. In 1980, he earned his PhD in Economics at the State University of New York. Along the way, Dr. Latortue was able to become fluent in English, Spanish, French and Creole.
Also in 1980, Dr. Latortue returned to Puerto Rico, where he became the director of business research at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. He stayed there for five years and during that time he was an executive board member and the treasurer of the Conseil Interregional pour les Refugies Haitiens (CIRH). There he worked with exiles and provided legal help for Haitian refugees in Puerto Rico and Florida. In 1986, he started an NGO dedicated to the extensive training of Haitian science teachers and provided agricultural credit to Haitian families in need. These projects were made possible due to the generosity and dedication of several Puerto Rican universities and government agencies.
From 1995-2001, Latortue served as the executive director of Unite Centrale de Gestion in Port au Prince, whose mission was to supervise investment programs to restore country infrastructures such as repairing hospitals, schools, ports and roadways. While in Haiti he also taught economics. In 2004, he returned to Puerto Rico and took his current position as the dean of the School of Business Administration at the University of Puerto Rico.
At the roundtable discussion, Dr. Latortue stressed the need for continued help and support of those in need, not just one-time donations. He had high praises for the initial outpouring of aid that was given to help Haiti after the earthquake. However, he said, “Haiti is still in the most dire of situations and the people are very much still in need of the aid of other nations.” He continued, “We must keep Haiti in the media. That way, people will not soon forget about Haiti and its long road to recovery.” He urged the audience to continue to send support to the island.
When asked about whether or not he thought Haiti would be able to overcome the earthquake disaster and move forward, he was very optimistic. He believes strongly in the will of the Haitian people. He believes that they are ready to build a new and better Haiti. Unfortunately the powers that be, at times, stand in the way of making that a reality. Dr. Latortue believes that his fellow countrymen must keep the faith. “No matter what happens and how bad things get, you always have your faith,” he said.
For the entirety of Dr. Latortue’s professional career he has made it a point to reach out to those in need, especially his fellow Haitians. It is his belief that philanthropy is alive and well in today’s world, and he hopes that it will continue to thrive even through our current economic slowdown. Dr. Latortue is truly an exceptional example of someone who does not put himself ahead of the group and who truly believes that helping one's fellow man can be beneficial to all of mankind. We can all take a page out of Dr. Latortue’s book and strive to make philanthropic deeds and ventures a big part of our life’s work. He is well aware that a life of helping others is a long, and at times, a seemingly fruitless battle. Yet in light of that, he left the group with these words of encouragement, “Never lose hope; we must have faith in what we are working toward.”