Gratitude is a powerful motivating force for most Georgia Tech donors, and this is especially true for Humberto J. Ortega, IE 1964, MS IE 1968, and his wife, Kathryn “Katey” Ayers, of West New York, New Jersey.
A native of Cuba, Ortega attended Acadamia Valmaña, a private elementary and secondary education school in Havana. At the age of 16, following his graduation, he and his mother agreed the best course of action would be for him to attend college in the United States. His mother—who left Cuba shorty after the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power—found a placement service in Cuba to help determine colleges that matched his aptitude, and Georgia Tech turned out to be just the right fit.
“Georgia Tech gave a tremendous amount of assistance to Cuban émigré students in the 1960s, including me,” Ortega said. “I still remember a group of us sitting in the office of the late A. P. (Neil) de Rosa, director of placement, receiving his reassurance that the loan program for Cuban students would be soon forthcoming. I have always been very grateful for that assistance and I wanted to find a way to express my gratitude that would also help other students of Cuban descent.”
Because of the profound sense of gratitude that both Ortega and Ayers feel toward their respective alma maters, they are endowing chairs at each institution: Ayers at Johns Hopkins University and Ortega at Georgia Tech.
Ayers’ endowment funds a chair in the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in gratitude for her basic nursing education, which set her on a lifelong path in a career she loves.
Ortega recently made a seven-figure bequest commitment, the bulk of which will fully endow the Humberto J. Ortega Chair in the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering. The chair holder will be an eminent teacher-scholar in an area of study to be determined by the school chair and the dean of the College of Engineering.
Ortega’s commitment also
establishes the Humberto J. Ortega Endowment Fund for the support of
Reconstruyendo El Puente (Rebuilding the Bridge), a scholarship fund that
Georgia Tech students of Cuban descent. Ortega first heard of the program from fellow alumni in Miami who started and are spearheading the effort to provide support for this group of students, expected to swell in the future as the island nation returns to normalcy after the Castro era. A 2007 Philanthropy Quarterly story about a commitment to the program from Teresita and Juan A. Michelena, ME 1962, also strongly influenced
Ortega retired as a senior staff engineer from ExxonMobil Research and Engineering in 2000 following a 32-year career in Information Systems Technology. Ayers, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, holds a nursing diploma from Johns Hopkins School of Nursing as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees in advanced practice psychiatric nursing from New York University. She also holds a post-master’s certificate as a psychiatric nurse practitioner from Columbia University. Ayers previously served as director of the Mental Health Department at Ryan Community Health Center in New York and as a psychiatric nurse practitioner at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. After retiring from Mount Sinai in 2004, she taught at several local nursing schools before returning to direct patient care in her own private practice, Katey Ayers Health Consultants. She currently is on the medical staff of Christ Hospital in Jersey City and has a contract with Christ Hospital to provide services as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, using her Spanish language skills to treat the large, diversified Hispanic population of Hudson County, New Jersey, where she and Ortega live.
(This article first appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of Campaign Quarterly.)
Industrial and Systems Engineering