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Hispanic Achievers Gala Awards History


2009 Awards Recipients


Finance Director,
Latin America Division


In October 2006, Juan Vernaza was promoted to Associate Director, Finance for Colgate Palmolive’s Latin America Division, based in New York. In this role, he has helped the finance team focus its efforts on one of Colgate’s key global strategies to become more “Effective and Efficient”. He is accomplishing this by working with the region to maximize selling price opportunities to improve margin and gross profit and identify indirect procurement opportunities in POP spending. He was also instrumental in the successful February 2007 divestment of Latam’s bleach businesses and assisting Fabian Garcia in his external presentations to Wall Street investors.

Prior to joining the Division; Juan was Finance Planning Manager for C-P Colombia. There he worked directly with C-P Colombia management to ensure business objectives were achieved. Juan has played an important role in people development in Colombia and is recognized as a key team leader across the organization.

Juan joined C-P Colombia in 1997 as an Analyst in the Accounts Payable department. He held positions of increasing responsibility in several areas including Foreign Trade, Treasury, Cost Accounting and Budget & Planning and was later promoted to Treasury Manager. In 2003, Juan completed a short-term assignment in the Latin America Division where he assisted with the Business Review and participated in special projects including the Business Warehouse NVO report and the heavy-duty detergent sale in theAndean region.Juan is married for 6 years, with 3 children. Up until Juan left Colombia to pursue his international career at Colgate, Juan was a ten year member of Active 20-30 International in Colombia. This is an organization that raises funds and sponsors activities for poor children


Jeremy R. Casares
Manager, New Services
FedEx Ground


Jeremy R. Casares serves as Manager of New Services for FedEx Ground in Pittsburgh, PA. In this position, he leads a dynamic team responsible for managing and implementing projects which drive new product offerings and services for FedEx Ground, FedEx Home Delivery and FedEx SmartPost. His team has contributed to the company’s long-term growth potential by giving smaller shippers access to the FedEx SmartPost service; expanding the next-day footprint in Texas; making new features available to international direct
distribution customers; improving the customer experience for multi-piece shipments, and streamlining delivery operations in rural Canada.

Prior to his current position, Jeremy served as Manager for Ground Solutions at FedEx Ground. In this role, his responsibilities included providing logistics and operations performance support for the company’s largest customers.

Jeremy is a proven 11-year veteran of FedEx Ground who exemplifies his commitment daily through his innovation, collaboration and leadership. He began his career at FedEx Ground in 1998 as a Hub Support Engineer where he successfully performed cost/benefit, through put and productivity studies as well as trained hub operations managers on industrial engineering principles.

Jeremy actively participates in FedEx corporate social responsibility efforts including the Beaver County Special Olympics, FedEx Ground Disability Mentoring Day, Junior Achievement Titan Challenge, American Cancer Society Daffodil Days, Gwen’s Girls, and Butler County Women’s Shelter projects.

Jeremy holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Pittsburgh and a B. S. degree in Industrial and Management Systems Engineering from West Virginia University. He has been awarded numerous recognitions during his tenure at FedEx Ground including the prestigious “Five Star Award” and the “Corporate and International Marketing Rising Star Award.” Recently, Jeremy was selected to represent FedEx in the prestigious Leadership Pittsburgh Development Program, which seeks to develop a diverse group of leaders to serve Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Senior Director,
Global Corporate Crisis Management,
McGraw-Hill Companies

Robert Donato is currently the Senior Director of Global Corporate Crisis Management for the McGraw-Hill Companies. McGraw-Hill is the parent company of Standard and Poor’s, McGraw-Hill Education, Business Week, JD Powers, and Platt’s. He is responsible for assisting over 280 office locations in 38 countries in preventing, preparing, responding and recovering from incidents which may impact employee safety or business operations. Mr. Donato has conducted over 100 Crisis Management workshops in the United States, South America, Europe, Asia and India.

Mr. Donato retired in December of 2001 after 21 years of service with the New York City Police Department. He has had a variety of assignments including 15 years of investigative experience.

A graduate of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Mr. Donato has a Master of Arts Degree in Forensic Psychology. He is a trained Hostage Negotiator, a certified Emergency Psychological Technician, and is certified in Critical Incident Stress Management. Mr. Donato is also a New York State Credentialed Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor (CASAC). He has been trained in the assessment, evaluation, and treatment of alcoholism and substance abuse, and is an experienced individual counselor and group facilitator. He holds Diplomate status within the American Psychotherapy Association. Mr. Donato is also certified by New York State as a Police Instructor.

Mr. Donato has conducted seminars on Human Dignity at International law Enforcement Academy programs in Budapest, Botswana, and Panama. He has conducted this workshop for police officers from over fifty countries, including: Belarus, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Kazakstan, Latvia, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Nicaragua, Peru, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. Mr. Donato has also trained over three hundred police officers from the United States, chosen by the United Nations to serve in Bosnia as police monitors.

Mr. Donato was born in Havana, Cuba and emigrated to the United States with his family in 1966. Mr. Donato was a 1995 National Finalist for a White House Fellowship.

Estanislado “Stan” Paz, Ph.D
Vice President, National Urban Markets
McGraw-Hill Education

Dr. Stan Paz leads the McGraw-Hill Education’s Urban Advisory Resource unit (West) targeting the largest school districts located in the eleven Western states. He assists large urban districts improving student performance through excellence in instruction, curriculum, and assessment. He is proudest of his record as superintendent for improving achievement among all students, increasing graduation rates, and lowering dropout rates.

As a strong believer in diversity, Dr. Paz serves on the McGraw-Hill Education Diversity & Inclusion Council. He was the Founding President of the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (ALAS). He has received the
Pacesetter Award twice and serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Walden University.

Stan volunteers his expertise in Tucson, Arizona to help energize the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He and his wife Norma are members of Corpus Christi Church. He is active in fundraising activities with the Knights of Columbus.

Manuel Blanco
District Manager,
Southern Wines & Spirits of New York

Manuel Blanco is currently a District Manager for Southern Wines & Spirits of New York, a nationally recognized wine and spirits distributor, operating in about 30 states and known for its historic commitment to delivering the highest standards of customer service. In his role, Manuel is responsible for overseeing the selling and developing of brands within the Southern Wines and Spirits portfolio to off premise retail accounts. He oversees 5 Salesreps with a total of 150 accounts in order to achieve profitability goals and objectives for the company.

Manuel joined Southern Wines & Spirits in 2005 and has been influential in building strong relationships in a diverse market. He has proven ability to thrive in quota-oriented sales territory. His daily functions comprise of leading his team to ensure execution of company goals, objectives, and completion of required records and documents. During those years he has received 2 consecutive awards for being the top District Manager of his division.

Prior to working with Southern Wines & Spirits, Manuel joined Paramount/Eber Brothers in 1998 as a customer service representative. Six months later he became the Desktop Publishing Manager and a year later Manuel became the Shaw Ross Portfolio Brand Developer. In 2004 Manuel joined the Gallo Sales Division where he worked for a year and grew his territory by over 40 percent. This professional experience resulted in building long-term relationships with diverse accounts and community members. He also enhanced his knowledge with formal wine and
spirits education which prepared him for a more challenging position in the industry.

Manuel Blanco was born in the Dominican Republican and migrated to the USA at age ten. Manuel received his High School diploma from The Coalition School for Social Change in 1997. Thereafter, he attended Lehman College where he earned a Bachelor degree of Arts in Economics (Cum Laude) in 2001. Additional honors included The National Economics Society as well as the Golden Key Honor society. He has 9 years of field sales experience and a total of 11 years in the alcohol/beverage industry. Manuel is a Master Freemason and an active member of
The Dominican Revolutionary Political Party (PRD).

Eliscer Guzman, M.D., F.A.C.C.
The Mount Sinai Hospital,
The Cardiology & Diabetes Care Clinic

Eliscer Guzmán began his medical career in 1967 when he was awarded a scholarship to the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Ureña in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. He received his Doctor in Medicine degree in 1973. The following year, Dr. Guzmán completed his medicalresidency at Salvador Gautier (Veterans) Hospital in Santo Domingo.

During the next four years, he served as the Attending Physician in
Medicine at Naco Policlinical Center and Pascasio Toribio Hospital in Santo Domingo. In 1980, Dr. Guzmán relocated to the United States to complete his medical residency at Bronx- Lebanon Hospital in New York.During this time he fulfilled a medical internship in Pediatrics and Internal Medicine. In 1984, served as Chief Resident of Internal Medicine at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital and began his post-doctoral fellowship in Cardiology.
Two years later, became Board Certified in Internal Medicine and in 1989 earned his Board Certification in Cardiovascular medicine.

Juan Ramon Alaix
Pfizer Animal Health

Juan Ramon Alaix is President of Pfizer Animal Health (PAH), one of the world’s largest and most innovative animal health organizations and one of nine business units of Pfizer Inc. PAH is a leader in the discovery, development and manufacture of veterinary-prescription vaccines and medicines for livestock and companion animals worldwide.

In this role, which he has held since September 2006, Mr. Alaix is responsible for the overall strategic direction and financial performance of Pfizer Animal Health. Under his leadership, PAH has grown to a $2.8 billion enterprise with more than
4,000 employees in over sixty countries.

Prior to becoming president of PAH, Mr. Alaix was regional president, Central/Southern Europe, Pfizer Global Pharmaceuticals, a position he held since 2003 when he joined Pfizer from Pharmacia. Mr. Alaix has 30 years’ experience of growing responsibility in finance, sales and management, including 15 years in the pharmaceutical industry. In the 1990s, Mr. Alaix served in general management with RhÙne-Poulenc Rorer in Spain and Belgium before becoming country president of Spain for Pharmacia in 1998.

Natale Ricciardi
Senior Vice President

Natale S. Ricciardi holds the positions of Senior Vice President, Pfizer Inc. and President, Pfizer Global Manufacturing. He is a member of the Pfizer Executive Leadership Team (ELT) and sponsors the Company’s Continuous Improvement (CI) efforts and the Worldwide Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Nat was named to his current manufacturing position in October 2004. He had been the PGM U.S. manufacturing leader since 1999, after four years as Vice President of Manufacturing for Pfizer's Animal Health Group. Nat led Pfizer's manufacturing operations in Puerto Rico from 1982 to 1995, the last three years of which included responsibility for Pfizer's Sales and Marketing operations in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. During his time in Puerto Rico, he led various public-private partnerships. Prior to Puerto Rico, he worked in a number of manufacturing assignments for 10 years in New York and at the Brooklyn plant.

While managing Pfizer operations in Puerto Rico, Nat was involved in numerous government, community and professional activities. He was particularly committed to various public-private partnerships (P3s) in Education, Housing, and Environmental protection; working with federal and local government agencies, academia and industry. As the representative of Pfizer in Puerto Rico he held a number of positions, including: Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Industry Association Founder and Chairman of the INDUNIV (Industry/University Research Center) Chairman of the Partnership for Pure Water Inc., for which he received the US EPA Region II Award for Commitment to the Environment.

Pol Vandenbroucke, MD
Vice President, Development, Emerging
Latino Leadership Council & Member
of Pfizer Latino CRG Leadership Team

Prior appointments include Vice President, Medical and Regulatory Affairs, Canada/Latin America/Africa-Middle East, Senior Medical Director Pfizer Japan, based in Tokyo, Director of Medical Operations, Asia and Australia/NZ for Pfizer, based in Hong Kong, and Medical Director, Lipitor based in New York, responsible for the international clinical development program of Lipitor.

Before joining Pfizer, Dr. Vandenbroucke was Medical Director, Sterling-Winthrop International, Cardiovascular Disease Manager at Novartis Mexico and Assistant Professor at the Instituto TecnolÛgico AutÛnomo de MÈxico (ITAM).

His background includes experience in Pharmaceutical Marketing, Medical Affairs, Clinical Development and Regulatory Affairs in the U.S., Europe, Latin America and Asia. He is fluent in Dutch, Spanish, English, French and German.

He holds a Medical Degree from the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium) and an MBA degree from the Instituto TecnolÛgico AutÛnomo de MÈxico (ITAM), and is a Member of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine of the Royal Colleges of Medicine of the UK.

Amalia Londono
Associate Director
Customer Service and Logistics

Amalia Londono was recently promoted to Associate Director, Customer Service and Logistics for Colgate-Palmolive’s Latin America Division, based in New York. In this role, Amalia will be responsible for providing strategic and operational guidance to Latin America to optimize costs, drive customer service improvements and provide supply chain support for new product launches.

Prior to joining the division, Amalia was Supply Chain Manager, Oral Care, CP US. In this role, Amalia was responsible for optimizing customer service and inventory levels for toothpaste. She was instrumental in the development and execution of the toothpaste sourcing transition plan from the Jeffersonville plant to Tennessee plant. The transition was completed at world class customer service levels of over 99%. In addition, Amalia was able to identify innovative ways to optimize working capital, achieving improvements of 20% reduction on Finished Goods.

Prior to joining the US Company, Amalia was Supply Chain Manager for Personal Care, CP Mexico in the Mission Hills facility. During her time there,she successfully executed product launches of over 60 new products and led the initial planning phases for the underarm roll on and aerosol re-launches.

Maria G. Garza
Senior Sales Analyst
FedEx Services

Maria G. Garza serves as Senior Sales Analyst in the Global Account Management organization at FedEx Services. In this position, she is responsible for seven global accounts. Maria is a proven 31-year veteran of FedEx who has gained her positions through hard work, determination and flexibility.

Maria began her career at FedEx in 1978 in the Credit and Collections Department and has been a manager in several departments at FedEx Express. She is a graduate of Colegio Administrativo of Torreon, Mexico and was able to secure her first management position as a Senior Operations Manager of Puerto Rico.

Throughout her career, Maria has participated in the development of training programs, minority forums and community outreach events designed to celebrate and promote diversity. For her dedicated efforts, Maria has been awarded numerous recognitions during her tenure at FedEx. She is most proud of being a recipient of FedEx’s top award, the Five Star Award, and has received special recognition for Outstanding and Meritorius Service to the Community of Memphis, TN.

Leslie Perez-Barnes
HR Generalist
FedEx Office

Leslie Perez-Barnes serves as the HR Generalist for the FedEx Office Support Organization where she is responsible for numerous personnel resource management decisions for both the Dallas Galleria and the Plano support locations. Leslie began her career with FedEx Office (formerly Kinko’s) in September of 2002, supporting the growth and expansion of the company’s field team in the Southwest Region. She continued the FedEx Kinko’s expansion effort in a newly created position at the Dallas Galleria Office. Leslie has successfully crafted and directed staffing processes for new stores while constantly analyzing and improving operations


AVP, Interactive User Experience
Global Brand & Marketing Services

Born in Brooklyn, New York to Puerto Rican-born parents, Debra Cruz learned early on to be proud of herself and her cultural heritage. Her hard-working mother, who eventually became a single parent, stressed the importance of family, education and independence; she led Debra by example.

Debra graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree with a dual concentration in Finance and Marketing from Fordham University. While at Fordham, she was a member of El Grito De Lares - a community-based organization that promotes Hispanic culture on campus and engages the surrounding community in supporting Hispanic awareness and needs.

Debra started her career at Prodigy Services Company as a Producer of online marketing campaigns long before the Internet boom in 1996. She then went on to IBM Global Services where she led a team responsible for providing customized content to IBM Business partners worldwide. Three years later, she was offered a new and exciting internet marketing opportunity at MetLife. Debra is now a leader on the Global Brand and Marketing team and is focused on User Experience Strategy.