Colombia Purdue Initiative — CPI

Tracing back the first Colombians to set foot at Purdue University


The Colombian student body at Purdue is currently the seventh largest among the international population, and the first among Latin American countries. Keeping in mind that this trend is fairly recent, and Purdue University was founded almost 150 years ago, we became curious about who were the first Colombians to graduate from our beloved institution.

After an extensive and exciting search in the University archives, we found that Bernardo Uricoechea from Bogotá, was the first Colombian registered as a student at Purdue in 1908. Although, the information available regarding his graduation date and major are inconclusive, he appears in the Purdue yearbooks until 1915. We also found records of B.L Trujillo in the yearbooks of 1914 and 1915, but like Mr. Uricoechea, we were unable to determine his graduation year and major.


Purdue Corda Fratres (1913). Bernardo Uricoechea, the first Colombian student registered at Purdue is pictured here (fourth from left to right in second lowest row). Photo extracted from the 1913 Purdue Debris Yearbook


Joseph Saenz, B.S.A. Photo extracted from the 1923 Purdue Debris Yearbook.

The third Colombian found in Purdue’s archives is Herman Saenz. He was originally from Medellin and finished his bachelor degree in 1918.  Saenz was a leader and active member in several student organizations. He participated and served as treasurer for the Purdue Debating team in 1917, and was part of International Student Federation Corda Fratres, and the Purdue Cosmopolitan Club, two international student organizations from the time, which became affiliated in 1917.

Joseph Saenz, possibly Herman’s relative and also native to Medellin, finished his Bachelor Degree in Agriculture (B.S.A) in 1923. He was affiliated with several student organizations including the S.A Purdue Union, Y.M.C.A, Ag. Society, Latin American Club, Spanish Club, and New Man Club.

We were unable to find more information about these daring Colombians who set foot at Purdue almost a century ago. We kindly ask you, dear reader, to provide us with any information you may have as we would love to follow up on this story. In the meantime, we write this note in memoriam of their time at Purdue. 


Purdue Debating team (1917).  Herman Saenz, who was a junior at that time, is the fifth from left to right in the middle line. Photo extracted from the 1917 Purdue Debris Yearbook.


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