ZAMORANO was, without a doubt, an experience that changed my life” -Don Paco.
Dr. Francisco Adolfo Sierra Ávila, “Don Paco” was part of the first ZAMORANO graduating class in 1946. He had the privilege of working very closely with Wilson Popenoe, who was the first president of ZAMORANO and pioneer of an initiative that made Honduras not only the home to a prestigious agricultural university but also a nursery to remarkable young leaders from Latin America. The life of Francisco exemplifies the far-reaching and invaluable consequences of instilling the ZAMORANO ideal in talented and ambitious young minds.
In what might have been an uneventful day working at a gas station in the city of Antigua Guatemala, young Francisco received an unusual costumer. It was Wilson Popenoe. That day, Wilson Popenoe perceived an intelligent and engaging mind in young Francisco thus extended the invitation to apply to ZAMORANO. This encounter marked what would eventually become a journey that would lead Francisco to explore new opportunities for growth not only for him but also for his family. Francisco was born to a single mother that tirelessly worked to provide for her children and encouraged them to persevere in the pursuit of their dreams.
ZAMORANO became the new home for Francisco who, similar to other young men enrolled at the agricultural school, could not afford an education. As a teenager, Francisco was not very keen on attending school or studying, but soon realized the need to diligently invest time in his studies in order to create opportunities to achieve his dreams.
After graduating from ZAMORANO, Francisco went on to finish his bachelor and master’s degrees at the University of Florida and later on his Ph.D degree in Soil Chemistry at North Carolina State University. Francisco’s professional life unfolded, at the beginning, in university classrooms, production fields and subsequently in research laboratories.
Soon after finishing his bachelor in science, he worked as a Chemistry professor at Zamorano where he continuously challenged his students to continue learning throughout their lives. Later on, he began to work for the Division of Tropical Research and the United Fruit Company. He had a passion for the study of soil, reasonably enough he devoted most of his career to soil mapping and agricultural research.
His family remembers him as someone who was constantly traveling. While working on soil mapping projects, he would be gone for weeks or months exploring promising agricultural fields in different countries of the world. At this time, the United Fruit Company was looking for fertile land to continue its banana production. For his exceptional research abilities and leadership skills, Francisco became the director of the Agronomy and Soil Department at the Division for Tropical Research. As the demand for bananas grew, Francisco also became the first director in charge of expanding operations in Honduras, Costa Rica, Panamá and Colombia. He continued to travel the world looking for opportunities that would benefit the United Fruit Company and advising other producers.
Francisco retired in 1985 from the United Fruit Company and became an independent consultant. His main client continued to be the United Fruit Company and different independent producers from Honduras and Costa Rica. Finally, at 84, he waved goodbye to all his clients and was then able to enjoy the remaining years of his life in the company of his wife Ida Blanco Lainez de Sierra. They both had been married for 66 years.
The love of his life, Ida, remembers him as an honorable and loving man. A man who was always attentive to the needs of his mother and sister and to those of his own family. Francisco and Ida had two children, Luis and Claudio, who remember their father with much love and gratitude.
Francisco passed away on February 20th surrounded by family love in La Lima, Honduras. May his example inspire students to pursue their dreams and contribute to the wellbeing of their nations.