GLADYS MARGARITA DIAZ-JOURDAIN: My name is Gladys Margarita Diaz-Jourdain, and I went to the College of Art and Architecture. Graduated in 1981 with a bachalor of architecture. And I got a masters of architecture and urban design in 1982.
SPEAKER: OK. And when did you come to the United States?
GLADYS MARGARITA DIAZ-JOURDAIN: I arrived in the US in March of 1962, right before the Cuban Missile Crisis. And we arrived here in Miami. And then we were invited to go-- to be adopted by a church in San Francisco-- outside of San Francisco in Mountain View. And so our family relocated there. And I went to Monte Loma Elementary to learn English, and I did that all during the summer.
And so I was about five-and-a-half, and I turned six over the summer. And so I got to-- I learned how to speak English in Mountain View.
SPEAKER: And you learned how to read at the same time?
GLADYS MARGARITA DIAZ-JOURDAIN: At the same time, yeah.
SPEAKER: And how or why did you choose Cornell?
GLADYS MARGARITA DIAZ-JOURDAIN: I chose Cornell because I wanted to be an architect since I was 14. My father was an engineer, and he was very much a proponent that girls were architects, not engineers, which is OK. And I love to draw. I drew myself through my entire childhood, and I thought it would be a fun thing to do.
And so when I went to college here in Miami, my professors were from Harvard and Princeton, and they said, well, why didn't you go away to college? And I said, well, am I allowed to go, it's not OK. It's not socially acceptable. So they said, well, you're really good student, you should go to a good school. And I said, well where should I go? And they said, well, go to the best school that there is, which is Cornell University. And I said, OK, well I'll go there.
And so behind my father's back, I applied. I had saved up money over the birthdays and all that, and I paid my application fee. And then my professors here in Miami wrote recommendations. And when I got accepted, my father looked at me and said, well, I don't know how you're going to pay for it because I'm not going to help you. So he figured I would give up. And little did he know.
So I dropped out of school-- I was in fourth year architecture at the time, so I was capable of doing design work and so on. I worked for a local architecture firm and I saved all the money I made. And about a year later, I applied for financial aid, and they accepted me. And so I said, bye!
SPEAKER: So then did you enter Cornell--
GLADYS MARGARITA DIAZ-JOURDAIN: As a transfer student. I entered-- I transferred in to third year, which in the architecture school was halfway through, and then you go third year, fourth year, fifth year, and then I stayed for grad school, and I figured, if I'm going to hock myself to the eardrums to go to school, I might as well do it right and go all the way through grad school.
Additionally, I always thought I would teach, and that was something I always wanted to do. And that would enable me to do so.
SPEAKER: Any special memories of your student days?
GLADYS MARGARITA DIAZ-JOURDAIN: Oh my god.
GLADYS MARGARITA DIAZ-JOURDAIN: What not to think about, you know? Sometimes it's funny, like I am middle-aged. And I always feel like I'm still 25 and I'm still just graduating. The world is my oyster, I'm starting my life. I think what was really cool about Cornell is that I lived in this dorm with all these international students, and that was my life. I mean, I would come home from the studio at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, there was always somebody awake. And I just developed this huge network of friends-- they live all over the world now. And thanks to Facebook, we're all in touch.
I have classmates that are the president of banks in Abu Dhabi, and I have friends in New Delhi, I have friends in-- all over the world. In Latin America and--
So I think what happens is that it just kind of made me really aware of the global village, and a lot of my friends were Benetton kids, people who were growing up in two different cultures. And I could really relate to that because part of my growing up here was adapting to being in America, and kind of how do I-- I'm still a Latino chick and I'm also part of the United States, and how do I make that relationship?
SPEAKER: When were you invited to join PCCW?
GLADYS MARGARITA DIAZ-JOURDAIN: I received a letter in 1993, and I said, there must've made a mistake. Because I was like, why me? And-- because I thought, why would they think of me? And then later on I figured out. And the bottom line is, it was something that I thought it was like-- kind of like finding the holy grail as a professional woman.
When I lived in Manhattan, because I graduated and I moved to Manhattan, my friends and I were always looking for a women's organization that would give us guidance and give us role models and people that could tell us, you might want to consider this, you might want to consider that, this is how I did it. And we always hit a blank wall-- and this is the early '80s, so it was a little difficult.
And so when I got the invitation to join PCCW, I'm like, aw, that's where they are! The fabulous women. And so to me, it was really exciting to be able to meet these incredible women who had accomplished so much and who could be role models. At that time I was in my early 30s. I hadn't gotten married, I wanted to know, how did you do it? How did you raise a family, how did you keep your career? How did you maintain your integrity in terms of your life? Those were important issues to me, and I wanted to meet women that I admired, that I felt I'd like to learn from them.
And I did. And to this day, PCCW has been a stable datum in my life. These are my friends forever, I've made friends of all ages, which is really neat. Women who I've learned a lot from. There's nothing like being on a committee to learn great organizational skills, and I have applied those in every part of my business. And I think Cornell is about excellence, and people who are involved as alumni are about excellence. And that's what-- I was in search of excellence. I wanted to be the best I could be, and I think that PCCW has helped to bring that out in me.
SPEAKER: And it has meant something to you different as a woman than if you were in a co-ed organization--
GLADYS MARGARITA DIAZ-JOURDAIN: Oh yeah. I mean, to me, first of all, you make a lot of buddies. You get to share a lot of things that I think are unique to professional women. I think that men don't go through the anxiety of keeping tabs of the kids and getting the deadline done and showing up at the partner meetings and pulling the all-nighter to get a project done and so on.
I'm an entrepreneur. I've been an entrepreneur. I moved to Miami-- back to Miami in 1990, and I had come with like a decade of living in New York City, working for different big companies, and I always wanted to have my own firm. And I think I'm-- as a Cuban American, I'm genetically programmed to be an entrepreneur, because I think Cubans invented the Pirates of the Caribbean entrepreneurship idea.
And I think that-- I always wanted to have my own business, and I wanted to integrate the concept of design and financing your own projects. I wanted to redevelop-- or I wanted to create a new paradigm for what an architect could do and what a woman architect could do. And I think that we as women are more worried about the future of our generations and the condition of our civilization. I think that architects by their nature, we're visionaries, we're always trying to make the world a better place. And I think that as a woman, you want to do that on steroids. You want to do it much better because you're creating the future for your family.
And so I always thought, if I'm going to do a business, I want to do business where I can use all this knowledge. I had logged in flight hours at Bear Stearns and other financial services industry giants because I wanted to learn capital markets. And so I specialize in affordable housing finance, which I learned was more complicated than mergers and acquisitions. It's very complicated.
And all this knowledge and applying for financial aid at Cornell was kind of like my training wheels on how to do really complex paperwork in order to get funding. So I figured I could do this, and I've been in business 18 years, and I think PCCW and the women of PCCW have given me a lot of inspiration and a lot of guidance and role models. And I think that our company has been able to develop projects and do things for Miami-Dade County that has made it a better place.
I also feel that I'm one of the women that works in all the communities-- Miami is a very multicultural environment. I like to-- I sponsored students since 1994. One of my commitments is that architects are never taught business, they never have been exposed to what it's like to really have a practice. And so my goal was to bring students in the design field, urban planning field to Miami to experience a multicultural environment, and a place where they had to fight for financing to build their own designs, and to really empower the students to realize that they could create careers that were different than the norm.
And I think-- I hope that I have left that behind, that my students remember me as somebody that kind of helped them a little bit.
SPEAKER: OK Any other special memories of PCCW that you would like to share?
GLADYS MARGARITA DIAZ-JOURDAIN: [LAUGHS] I think from the beginning, just going to the meetings and being in the same room with these amazing women, and meeting the president of a major Fortune 100 company, and meeting women who ran huge organizations, and hearing from them how they combined their lives-- their lives as women, their lives as professionals, and how I could learn from that.
I think-- I love the ride to New York City on the bus and arriving in I think at midnight in the snow in March is always fun. And I make that trip because I really-- I'm very committed. I really think that it's just-- it lifts me spiritually to go there and to see everybody and to hear about the career plans. Meeting the women who-- the woman who went to Afghanistan who was such an inspiration. The women who have done things in banking that are really unique and interesting. Artists who have created incredible projects. And Sheryl WuDunn who's written this incredible book.
And I think that you feel like you're part of a fraternity-- a sorority that is changing things for the better, and I think that's what's really cool about PCCW, because everybody is doing something really interesting, I feel. And the-- one of the moments I thought was really cool was when we were sitting on the floor in the bar at Statler, and one of our members was the engineer who designed the robot that went to Mars. And I think his name was Explorer. And she had the video of real-time of what was going on Mars on her laptop. And she worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
And so then you know she put it up on the screen, and there we were, having drinks at the bar, watching this video of this robot that this woman had designed on Mars, which unbelievable. So that was kind of one of my highlights. And just having fun preparing the meetings. Working with Nancy has been incredible. And as a meeting planning director for years, she's a hoot and half. We drove out of Ithaca, drove to her house one time, and we went through snow and hill and dale and it was winter, and we stopped at every antique store on the freeway. It was such a fun time.
So I've had a lot of fun, and I've made really great friends, and I'm really happy to say that I hope that I have enhanced their life as well. And I hope more people come to Miami, actually, because that's-- look at this, we're in the middle of winter. This is deep February, you know? Deep March.
SPEAKER: Well, thank you very much. Anything if you would like to add before we conclude?
GLADYS MARGARITA DIAZ-JOURDAIN: I think I would like to see PCCW continue. I think that as an organization, it has enhanced my career as a woman and as a professional. And as somebody who-- I think I have contributed to enhancing other people's lives through the support and the encouragement that I've received from PCCW.
So I think that it gives to the members, the members give back to PCCW and to Cornell, and mostly to the rest of the community-- the Cornell alumni community, the students. A lot of them depend on us for guidance, especially in these challenging economic times. I get phone calls, emails, do you have any ideas of what I could do with myself?
And you're also a leader-- it also teaches you to be a leader not just of women, but of men. Because we actually create ourselves as leaders and develop ourselves as leaders. And a leader is transgender, transcultural, a leader leads. And so that's what I wanted to be, someone that could do that with elegance. And I think that our founders are good examples of that, and I'm very, very grateful that I had this opportunity to do this.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact email@example.com if you have any questions about this request.
PCCW member Gladys Diaz-Jourdain '81 & '82 reflects on how she chose Cornell, her memories of the university, and how Cornell has shaped her life both personally and professionally.
The President's Council of Cornell Women is a group of highly accomplished alumnae working to enhance the involvement of women students, faculty, staff, and alumnae as leaders within Cornell University and its many communities.