Colombia Purdue Initiative — CPI

Did you know...?

The close bond between Purdue University and Colombia began decades ago.  It has sustained and grown stronger over time, but especially in the current decade, since Purdue launched its Colombia Purdue Initiative in 2010.  In six short years, hundreds of individuals from all across Colombia and Purdue have crossed the Caribbean to explore and implement collaborations that matter to our collective futures. 

Our greatest joint asset, however, is you – our alumni  – you share a deep, lifelong attachment to your beloved country of Colombia and to your university family here at Purdue (and around the world!).

This section is an opportunity for us to feature and appreciate the stories of our common history and to acknowledge the contributions of those who have built the Colombia Purdue legacy.



A family of educators and Boilermakers


Martha García-Sáenz, Associate Professor at Purdue Northwest, comes from a family of educators. Her grandfather, Julio César García Valencia, was a man of prominence in the early twentieth century in Colombia. He was a historian, a philosopher, and a journalist. But above all, he was passionate about education. In 1951 he founded Universidad la Gran Colombia in Bogotá. His decision was the result of a deep concern for the state of Colombian society, especially after he witnessed the destruction caused by the Bogotazo*, occurred in 1948. 

García Valencia was also the most ardent defender of women’s access to higher education in Colombia. His position on this issue resulted in strong resistance from the most conservative sectors in the country, especially the Catholic Church. Nevertheless, he decided to accept women as students in his university, and a group of them graduated in 1935. He was also the first to introduce evening classes in Colombia, which allowed workers to take courses that would not interfere with their day jobs. He died in 1959, after having been a Professor and Rector of Universidad de Antioquia, Secretary of Education of Antioquia, and Minister of Education for Colombia. He was known as the “architect of new men”. 

García Valencia’s son and Martha’s father, Hernán García Piedrahíta, was also an educator. Along with a group of friends, he co-founded Universidad Católica de Colombia in 1970. He was among the first cohort of students that graduated from the then newly founded School of Economic Science at Universidad de Antioquia. Before founding Universidad Católica, he had been a professor in his father’s institution, Universidad la Gran Colombia.

Martha, her three children and her husband are all Purdue alumni. Both Martha and her daughter completed their graduate studies at the same time. They graduated from the College of Engineering, as well as her younger sons, Jorge and Javier. Her husband, Iván Sáenz, graduated from the Spanish Literature Department. Also, two of Julio César’s great grandsons, Esteban García and José Manuel García, are currently working at Purdue as Assistant Professors in the Purdue's Polytechnic. A true family of educators and Boilermakers!

* El Bogotazo (from "Bogotá" and the -azo suffix of violent augmentation) refers to the massive riots that followed the assassination in Bogotá, Colombia, of Liberal leader and presidential candidate Jorge Eliécer Gaitán on 9 April 1948 during the government of President Mariano Ospina Pérez. Wikipedia 


Martha García-Sáenz


Julio César García Valencia


From left to right: Jennifer Savaiano, Martha's son's wife, Jorve Ivan, her son, Ivan Saenz, her husband, and Martha Garcia


Martha's children, Jorge Ivan, Javier Fernando and Martha Cecilia. The three of them graduated from Purdue. Jorge and Javier are Mechanical Engineers and Martha is an Electrical Engineer.


Edificio colgante, a modern and eco friendly hanging eight-story structure, Universidad Católica de Colombia (Photo taken from


Universidad Católica de Colombia  (Photo taken from


Universidad Gran Colombia (Photo taken from




Help us build our Colombia Purdue history!

We found this photograph within the  Purdue Library’s Archives and Special Collections. It was taken September 1969 in BOGOTA during a Purdue Alumni Club meeting. However, we do not know the people or story of this image -- do you recognize someone (maybe yourself) in the picture? What is your story? Or your friend’s story? What is the history of the Purdue Bogota Alumni Club? Who organized it? What did they do and why did it stop?

Por Favor, HELP us build the story of the Colombia Purdue legacy and SHARE what you know about this picture. Click HERE to write to us and to upload other photos and stories that you saved from your Purdue adventures as a student and your family and life experiences after Purdue. 

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