Hughes with painting by Honduran artist Jose Antonio Velásquez
James S. Hughes has had a passion for Latin America since a Peace Corps teaching experience immediately after graduate school. This interest was reinforced when he met George P. Gardner, Jr. in Boston in the 1970’s. Gardner was a dedicated Zamorano Trustee and had been the Chairman of the United Fruit Company after that company participated in the founding of Zamorano in the early 1940s. Hughes was inspired by the tireless dedication of Gardner and other Zamorano Trustees and supporters such as John Smith and Thomas Cabot, also of Boston.
A trip to Latin America in 1976 put Hughes on the ground in Guatemala when a major earthquake hit, and this allowed a visit to Zamorano to meet with then-President, Simón Malo. “I was instantly charmed by the school and inspired by the Zamorano team effort to help Central America to recover from the earthquake.” Hughes was invited to join the Board of Trustees in 1978, and was immediately appointed Treasurer of the Board.
During his tenure as Treasurer, he encouraged a period of endowment growth which led to a ten-fold increase in endowment accounts, eventually allowing a source of support for students with limited financial means. Hughes served Zamorano as Trustee for more than two decades and became Trustee Emeritus in 2006. In his Emeritus status, he continues to help Zamorano as a friend and as a member of the Finance Committee.
Hughes fondly recalls many visits to Zamorano and Zamorano fundraising events organized by Boston area friends of the school, and in particular a party to celebrate Chilean Independence Day on Thompson’s Island within the Boston Harbor. He can also still recite verses of songs he wrote for a group of Boston-area friends of Zamorano called the “Choirboys” who raised funds for and sang tributes to George Gardner at the 2002 dedication of the chapel on campus (lyrics here).
Hughes married Bess Dawson, a research physician, in October of 1976, and they have two children, William and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren. One of his most treasured personal connections to the school stems from the experience of his daughter, Elizabeth (“Liz”), who interned at Zamorano during the summer of 1998, between her junior and senior years of high school. Liz lived in a dormitory, dined with students, and participated in rural development efforts. Inspired by that summer, Liz launched an endowment fund that bears the name “La Papa,” the nickname that the students gave Liz on campus. The fund continues today with a value of over $800,000 to provide annual scholarship support for students for whom Zamorano would be unaffordable without financial aid.
Hughes began his professional career in 1966 with two years in the Peace Corps and one year as a Ford Foundation consultant teaching at the Fundación Adolfo Ibanez Business School in Chile. Following two years in Cleveland in strategic planning for the Eaton Corporation, he moved to Boston where he joined several friends from business school to own and manage Boston Financial Technology Group (BFTG), a company financing real estate projects throughout the USA. Simultaneously, he joined a former student from Adolfo Ibanez in the founding of a company called FRUPAC, exporting fresh fruit into Philadelphia from Chile, a company that was eventually bought by Chiquita Banana. In 1986, James left BFTG to form Norwich Capital, another real estate services company focused on the USA, and he also organized a technology transfer company (called “Inventa”) with a friend and partner in Chile. In 2002 Hughes partnered with a colleague in Argentina to found Boston Andes Capital, a company which is currently active in the acquisition and development of income producing real estate projects in Boston, Baltimore, Providence, Buenos Aires, Bogota and Barranquilla. Investors in these projects hail primarily from Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Mexico.
Hughes has served on the boards of non-profits (primarily educational institutions) and private and publicly traded companies. Hughes is a graduate of Dartmouth College where he received a BA, a BS in metallurgical engineering, and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business.
In his own words about why it is important to support Zamorano, “I believe education is the key to economic development and the improvement of the human condition. I think Zamorano has a creative, unique and successful way of inspiring young people who can then contribute much more than the cost of their education to the world and to their home communities and economies. The Zamorano experience is an immersion in learning-by-doing and stimulates an aggressive approach to a meaningful life with sound values. The process of education is extremely important, and we must improve education at all levels from pre-primary through post-graduation in order to improve the problems of the world. It is important to Zamorano’s education process that different cultures are mixed to join students from all income levels and cultures from more than 20 countries.”