Friends UC celebrates its 20th anniversary with a concert for UC benefactors

The U.S.-based entity that supports UC in its initiatives and projects held its biannual board meeting, which also commemorated other milestones, such as the 10th anniversary of the Cristobal Conde Scholarship, as well as the reunion with the students of the Leading the Way Scholarship Program.

«In this year 2023 in which Friends UC is celebrating 20 years of close collaboration with our beloved Catholic University, we are deeply honored to have the opportunity to participate in this gathering in which the university is thanking its benefactors». With these words, Sava Thomas, president of Friends of Catholic University in Chile, Inc. (Friends UC) opened the UC Benefactor Appreciation Concert, an event that brought together dozens of people who have in common having supported the university over the years.

Attendees were treated to the violin playing of talented artist Kevin Zhu, who, at just 22 years old, has already played on the world’s most important stages, from Carnegie Hall in New York to the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing. In 2018, Kevin, who was a disciple of Itzhak Perlman and Li Lin at The Juilliard School, won the Paganini competition, establishing himself as one of the key figures among the new generation of musicians. He was accompanied by the outstanding Chilean pianist Luis Alberto Latorre; together, they gave life to a repertoire that included works by Norwegian composers Johan Svendsen and Edvard Grieg, as well as Russian composers Piotr Ilich Tchaikovsky and Sergei Prokofiev.

Afterwards, addressing the benefactors, the rector of the Catholic University, Ignacio Sanchez, said «I am extraordinarily happy and grateful for your presence here. I believe that there is a fundamental aspect, which is to see the testimonies of how the lives of many people change because of the opportunities that we can all give them. There is a lot of talent, a lot of dedication, a lot of effort in thousands of young people who come to our university and who often need an opportunity and spaces, opportunities to meet abroad, human relations. We see how, if this possibility exists, they can develop to the fullest». These words took concrete form in the testimony that the civil engineer, UC alum and former Leading the Wat Scholar Javiera Riveros delivered in a very emotional way.

Friends UC’s board of directors, which is headed by attorney Sava Thomas.

Patricio Donoso, Provost for Institutional Managerial Affairs, also expressed his deep appreciation to the attendees, highlighting their contribution to a wide range of scholarship initiatives, infrastructure, Radio Beethoven, Endowment and more: «This activity is basically to thank you all for the support that all these projects have meant in recent years. We would also like to add a very special congratulations to the Friends UC Foundation for these 20 years. It has really been a tremendous support for the efforts we make to seek resources for important projects that we do at the university».

Transforming lives

Friends UC is a non-profit organization that collaborates with the Catholic University through its own programs, such as the Cristobal Conde Scholarship and the Leading the Way & Scholarships program. In addition, it collaborates with Universidad Católica in its fundraising efforts in the United States for central and academic unit initiatives. Its board meetings are held biannually: April in Santiago and October in New York.

Hence, the UC Benefactor Appreciation Concert was not the only activity; on the contrary, there was an intense agenda that took place over four days and included the presentation of innovation projects linked to UC, as well as two colloquiums. The first was «The many faces of Chile: how to understand an everchanging country», with the participation of panelists Roberto Méndez, professor of the School of Government; the former and current deans of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Eduardo Valenzuela and Mariane Krause, respectively, and Iris Boeninger, economist, former Chilean ambassador to Uruguay and member of Amarillos por Chile.  «The keys of the second constitutional process Chile will face», was the second one, where, in addition to the latter guest, were present law professors Alejandra Ovalle and Arturo Fermandois, as well as the dean of the Faculty of History, Geography and Political Science, Valeria Palanza.

Meeting with the Conde Scholarship Holders

A key moment was the meeting with Friends UC scholarship recipients, and especially with those who have or had the Cristobal Conde Scholarship, which this year celebrated 10 years giving hope to dozens of young people. In fact, 257 students have benefited in one of its two modalities (maintenance or fee gap), and Cristobal Conde, director of Friends UC and donor behind the benefit, pledged to continue supporting this initiative, whose inspiration was his mother, Mrs. Eulalia Donoso, who passed away in 2022. «The scholarship thing is very simple: if I give five scholarships, there are five scholarship recipients; if I give 10, there are 10 scholarship recipients. The more scholarships I give, the more they add up. We are already at 257, and that’s how we keep going. What I can do is to add up. But if each one of the 257 contributes, then it starts to multiply. So I’ll take care of the addition, but you take care of the multiplication, because there, together, we can change society, make a more equitable society,» said the successful businessman based in the United States. «Let’s keep this in mind: I add, I will continue to add scholarships, but you give what you can, and you will make this multiply,» he concluded.

Meeting with the Leading the Way Program & Scholarship Holders

There was also space to meet with the Leading the Way Scholarship students who most recently completed their study trip. On the occasion, law student Estíbaliz Pereira delivered a moving testimony regarding the impact the program has had on her life. «Growing up as the daughter of a single mother was a difficult experience, because many people believe that, if you have not grown up in a traditional family, you cannot be successful and do not deserve their respect,» said the young woman, who, despite this adversity, fell in love with English early on. However, it was not until she was part of the program and lived the experience of five weeks in the United States that she was able to free herself from a blockage that prevented her from communicating well. With a perfect command of the language, she pointed out that «thanks to Friends UC and Leading the Way, now I have greater expectations for my future, because English is currently a basic tool to work in any law firm, court or international organization. Also, having gained a deeper understanding of diverse cultures and customs, I feel more prepared to be a better advocate for my clients and relate to people from different backgrounds in a more meaningful way.»

In October, when New York’s Central Park begins its dramatic transformation from green to earth tones, Friends UC will reconvene to continue to seek ways to best collaborate with Universidad Católica.