Anuca Valverde (B’79) on Finding Independence and Maintaining Her Female Identity
Georgetown McDonough joins the nation during the month of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. For the School of Business, this history began in 1960 when the newly formed school awarded its first business degree to a woman. This historic moment set the stage for the extraordinary achievements of six decades of female graduates, who continue to break barriers and pave the way for future generations of women business leaders.
To celebrate Women’s History Month, we are highlighting several stories of McDonough alumnae who pushed boundaries and found success in their personal and professional lives.
As a Cuban immigrant hoping to leave her hometown of Miami for college, Anuca Valverde (B’79) landed at Georgetown thanks to a deeply rooted family connection with Washington, D.C., and various Georgetown alumni within her extended family. Once there, she found her place among the diverse mix of American and international students. After graduation, graduate studies in Paris, and work in New York City, she returned to Florida and established her own advertising and marketing firm, which she ran for 25 years. Valverde is a devoted Hoya — she chose Georgetown’s Father Jim Walsh to officiate her wedding, wears her class ring on a chain around her neck, and returns every five years for her class reunion.
What was your upbringing like?
In 1960 when I was five, my family moved to Miami from Cuba. We were the first group of exiles from the Cuban exodus. That was a foundation for my entrepreneurship because as exiles, my family had to start over. My father had his own business and served as an excellent role model. I learned a lot about work ethic from him. I grew up surrounded by some strong aunts. My mom, on the other hand, was a very traditional type of female who had a tough time expressing her own identity. I took note of that, and I swore I would never be like that. I swore to myself that I would create my own identity and be able to survive on my own.
What drew you to Georgetown?
As a Cuban female, daughter of a very conservative father and mother, I had to fight for permission to go away to college. I was the only Cuban female in my high school that left the state of Florida. However, I was fortunate enough to have traveled throughout the United States and Europe with my family, so I knew there was something else beyond Miami.
My aunt, whom I considered a role model, lived in Washington. When it was time to apply for colleges, my father said, “Okay, you may leave Miami if you live at your aunt’s house in Washington, D.C.” My goal was to get into Georgetown. I had visited, and I fell in love with the campus architecture and energy. Plus, I had heard many stories from older family friends about the Cuban tradition within Georgetown. There was a certain allure about the tradition that enamored me. Before the Cuban revolution, there was, and still is, a solid Georgetown Cuban connection — not just alumni, but professors and staff. Being at Georgetown was my first taste of independence, and I took every opportunity I could to evolve myself and do exciting things.
How did you choose your major?
I started off as an accounting major because that’s what my father wanted me to do. My junior year, I took my first marketing class and I aced it. I realized then that advertising was my talent and I decided to change my major, but my decision had negative repercussions with my father. He did not approve of the change, and therefore he stopped paying for college. The good news was, I had been taking six classes every semester so I had enough credits to do my last semester part time. This represented big savings. I also got a job, the School of Business granted me a partial scholarship, I obtained a student loan, and I forged ahead to pay for my last year without help from my parents.
What did you do after graduating?
The summer after graduation, I went to work in Paris, and I stayed there for over six months. It was an excellent experience. I learned a lot about the direct mail marketing industry, and I had a great time. From there, I worked in an ad agency in Miami before returning to Paris to get art history under my belt. After that, I traveled to New York with $100 in my pocket. I found a job at D’Arcy Macmanus and Masius, which was then Cannon Advertising, and eventually Wells Rich, Greene Advertising, which was one of the big agencies. Eventually, I came back to Miami to be with family.
How did you manage to maintain a worklife balance with your career?
Work balance always has been a struggle. One of the benefits of having your own business is flexible hours. When my children were young, I was able to come and go as I wanted. I nursed for 18 months. I had the pump machine in the office. In those days, that practice in public settings was pretty rare, but I didn’t have an issue because it was my own office. I would close the door, and I would pump. It was no big deal. It’s always been important for me not to lose my female identity while being in the business world. I rarely wore pants and mostly wore scarves, blouses with skirts, and dresses, always very feminine; it was just part of the program.
What non-career achievement makes you most proud?
Giving back is very important to me. I have achieved this in various ways. In Miami, there used to be a museum called Metropolitan Museum of Miami, which had a Center for Latin American Arts and Studies. I created a junior group for them, which raised money and organized exhibits. Also, I helped found a Miami chapter for CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder), a nonprofit association based in Washington, D.C. That was an important moment in my life’s journey— becoming aware of ADD and understanding that many creative people have ADHD. I still enjoy helping people cope with the challenges posed by ADD. Instead, I like to focus on the “gift of ADD.” Most recently, my passion has been helping raise funds for handicapped and elderly in Cuba through an organization called Friends of Caritas Cuba – Miami Committee.
What role has your identity as a woman played in your career?
My identity as a woman has played an essential role in my career. Early on, I decided that not losing one’s female identity while still working successfully in a man’s business world is vital. Most real estate developers were and are still men. As humans, we all have to express ourselves and have an opportunity to set goals and be able to reach them. I always was impressed with women who accomplished that. Even as a young child, it was important to me that women have an identity of their own and that they accomplish their own goals. As I reflect on it here, I realize I’ve always had women in my life who have inspired me to do what I want to do and not be afraid.
This is an excerpt from the 60 Years of Alumnae: Memories, Milestones, and Momentum book, which shares the experiences and accomplishments of six decades of trailblazing women at Georgetown McDonough. Order your copy of the 60 Years of Alumnae book today to receive $15 off during Women’s History Month.