Roberto Cañizares ’71, MBA ’74
A series of fortunate events
Dutta's vision for “making Johnson one of the top five business schools in the country, and his determination to raise its global prestige with a strong international profile and focus,” resonated with Cañizares, he says. “I really got excited and motivated to step up and do more.”
Cañizares recently made a large gift of stock to Johnson’s Emerging Markets Institute. “Dean Dutta pointed out to me that Cornell is not known for research in emerging markets,” says Cañizares. “So I decided to support this drive to catch up and help Cornell stand out with research and activities that will give us visibility and recognition in this field.”
One topic Cañizares would like to see researched is whether international careers are detrimental or helpful to people’s career advancement. “There’s a lot of debate about this, and such research would provide some important conclusions to something that is currently just a popular subject of discussion.”
Judging from Cañizares’ own story, international exposure and experience appears to be a huge boon to one’s career. After graduating from Cornell’s College of Engineering, he had originally planned to return to his native Colombia. But since he foresaw little future in nuclear engineering in Colombia (“other than teaching or starving"), he decided to apply to business school at Cornell and at the University of Chicago. Both offered an exchange program with the University of Louvain, Belgium. “I was interested in programs where you would not only get international experience, but also learn a third language,” says Cañizares.
He chose Cornell’s MBA program.
“I loved it,” says Cañizares, who went on to serve in international leadership roles at Trane Co., and later became president of MSA International, overseeing all the safety company’s operations outside North America. “Cornell opened doors for me that probably never would have opened otherwise. The fact that I learned a third language together with a European degree enhanced the value of my Cornell education.”
When Trane needed someone to go to Brazil, Cañizares was a natural candidate. Later, when they needed a manager for Europe, his knowledge of French and his European education, gained at Louvain, made him an ideal candidate. That early European experience led to executive assignments with Trane in Asia, based in Hong Kong, and Europe, based in the Netherlands. Later, he worked for MSA, based in Germany. “The fact that I had a truly global career experience made me a valuable candidate for the president’s role at MSA International,” says Cañizares. “This global position was a wonderful assignment: in addition to Asia, Europe, and Latin America, it exposed me to Africa and the Middle East. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
After Cañizares retired from MSA, he and his wife decided to remain in its headquarter city, Pittsburgh, Penn. -- “a wonderful city and a convenient driving distance from Ithaca,” as he says. He has returned to Cornell four or five times in the past year alone to lecture in various professors’ classes and to work with the EMI. He is also a board member of the Craigelea Educational Foundation, which supports his Cornell fraternity, Chi Phi.
In addition to launching his illustrious career in international management, says Cañizares, his decision to study at Johnson had another, arguably even more important, bonus: It was in French class at Louvain that he met his wife, Gail Anderson ’75 (now Gail Anderson Cañizares ).
"While finishing my MBA, I proposed to her in Sage Hall, which was a graduate dorm at the time,” says Cañizares. “We’ve been married for 39 wonderful years.” Their son, Andy (Johnson MBA ’09), also has an international career, and currently works for Cisco in Hong Kong.
“Going to business school at Cornell was the best decision of my career,” Cañizares says.