by Meg Kimmel
Carlos and Mal ú Alvarez discovered Davidson in 1997 during their daughter’s college search—the younger Malú chose to join the Class of 2002. We sat down with Carlos Alvarez to talk about his trustee service, his love for Davidson, becoming an American citizen, and beer—among a few other things.
You can listen to the complete interview on Davidson’s iTunesU site.
How did you find Davidson?
It would have been Malú’s and my family’s loss if we had not found Davidson College. Coming from Mexico, our understanding of liberal arts education was nonexistent; Davidson came to my attention as a jewel of a place—there was a family feeling here from the get-go. We have been extremely fortunate to have been associated with Davidson, first as parents and now with the inspiration and energy of my fellow trustees, who show such love for the college.
You love your work.
My father was a beer distributor in Acapulco in the ’40s (imagine that Acapulco used to be a fishing village!). Growing up, I worked there in summers and during vacations, learning the basics of beer distribution. It was my father’s way of saying you need to do a bit of sweating! I became the export manager for the brewers of Corona, brought the brand to the U.S., and eventually founded The Gambrinus Company and moved to San Antonio. This was professionally rewarding, but living in the U.S. and being able to enjoy things that are taken for granted here is truly rewarding. It’s a great place, this country.
You are an expert on brands.
Any beer would love to have a brand as strong as Davidson College. For many years, this brand has been nurtured by the faculty and staff, and I am proud to be part of the trustees, who are stewards of this brand. And the “product” is the graduate, the exceptional backbone that adds value to brand.
Your family made the Alvarez College Union possible.
The students work very hard, and it is not uncommon in our lives to find that we have little time for social interaction. You understand that our beer business is very social—I think of the union as you would think of a pub, where we get to know each other better. That is a precious thing.
Your thoughts on The Davidson Trust?
It is of such value to students, not having to leave school with the burden of Trust was a big decision, and I was proud to be part of the admission and financial aid committee as the initial talks occurred. We did not take lightly the financial pressures on the institution, and that is something that is constantly in our minds—it will take all of us to pull together and contribute.
You and your wife, Malú, have established the Alvarez Scholars Program.
I was an international student for half a year in high school in Michigan— imagine going from Acapulco to Michigan in the middle of winter! As immigrants, our family has seen the value that living in a different country brings to your professional and personal life. Trustees and alumni all have their own areas of interest, and I am not shy to say that mine is this effort to make this institution more engaged in the global community and the world we live in. Just as international students’ lives are transformed by coming to Davidson, the domestic students are enriched by the presence of students from other countries. Stereotypes can be the rule. It will be a two-way street and very beneficial to the college.
Will you get to know the Alvarez Scholars?
I certainly see this as something I would be interested in becoming engaged with, because it provides international students with the feeling that they are appreciated and valued. You can do a lot more than you think if someone tells you that they believe in you.
You and your family became American citizens in 2001.
The catalyst came when the Mexican government changed the law, allowing Mexicans to take another nationality. But it is not a decision that you take lightly. The day we became naturalized, we flew to New York to experience our first day as Americans where the very first wave of immigrants came into this country. As you experience and you enjoy the many values America has, it is not that difficult to fall in love with this country.
Photo: Christopher Record