Holy Cross Alumnae at the Helm of Puerto Rican Media Company Mix Business and Social Justice

The Ferré Rangel sisters discuss the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, responding with 'grit' at the Women in Business Conference

"Close your eyes and think about it for one second: no power, no internet, no communication, complete silence and complete isolation," says María Eugenia Ferré Rangel '89, chief communications officer of Grupo Ferré Rangel, a Puerto Rican company whose holdings include the island's newspaper, El Nuevo Día. "That's what we faced after Hurricane Maria last year. What's our next step? How do we move the island forward not only as a business, but really as a family?"

It's a question with no easy answer and the 170 students and alumnae who turned out to hear María Eugenia and her sister, fellow alumna Loren Ferré Rangel '92, speak at the Women in Business Conference last week heard a candid assessment of the importance — and challenge — of mixing good business practices with good citizenship.

The annual conference is an opportunity for students and businesswomen to learn from one another. The Ferré Rangel sisters, who run their family's 100-year-old media, real estate and social engagement company with their three other siblings, were the featured guests of the keynote interview, moderated by Michele Murray, vice president for student affairs and dean of students. After lunch and networking sessions, students sat in on panels led by alumni in different industries.

The Ferré Rangel sisters say the power of their belief — to do good as both businesswomen and corporate citizens — was tested last year. As Loren puts it, the first order of business was to step into, not away from, the fray.

"We had to make a choice: Were we going to be an observer? Or were we going to be an agent of change? We didn't have a road map, but we made the choice to choose to help. People needed us."

Students stand with Loren Ferré Rangel '92 and María Eugenia Ferré Rangel '89. Photo by Cassie Gevry

As María Eugenia points out, the family's company was one of the only media companies working on the island. There was no radio, no television and no internet — only a printed newspaper. And she credits lessons learned at Holy Cross for tapping into the discipline needed to get the job done under tough circumstances.

"Holy Cross trains you every day for that grit, for that desire to become better."

Most important, the sisters say, was faith.

"We had faith that we could do what we needed to do; we had faith that we had to survive," says María Eugenia. "And we had faith that our role was to inform the island. Two hundred and fifty people slept in the newsroom for a month with their families and children. They'd lost their houses and family members through the hurricane. But they came to work because they had a mission to fulfill."

For the Ferré Rangels, that mission didn't stop once the island's power came back on. The sisters are dedicated to putting their employees needs front and center, particularly as so many are dealing with post-traumatic stress at the beginning of yet another hurricane season.

Fueled by their long careers in the communications industry — both as leaders and business owners — the sisters offered advice to the roomful of female students interested in business.

"Educate yourself," says María Eugenia. "A constant sense of learning is critical to be a leader. And If anybody tells you they can do it all, they're wrong. You have to ask for help. And then, give help. Lend a hand."

It's a lesson, first learned on The Hill, that transcends geography.

The Women in Business Conference was sponsored by The Carlyse and Arthur A. Ciocca '59 Center for Business, Ethics, and Society

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