Colombia Purdue Initiative — CPI

Honoring Juan Guillermo Ochoa Sierra

"Un antioqueño de pura cepa"


Photo provided by Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana

Juan Guillermo Ochoa Sierra was the type of person everybody loves: he was modest, sociable, and joyful. Never letting his titles and achievements expand his ego, he would start a conversation with anyone anytime, from professional meetings to dance parties.

Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana (UPB) in Medellín, Colombia was Juan Guillermo's most beloved institution. He studied there for almost twenty years - from first grade in primary school to the end of his undergraduate studies in Mechanical Engineering. Later in life, he served as an Alumni representative to the UPB Board of Trustees, a position that allowed him to represent his University in international projects, meetings, and events and to strengthen the relations with Purdue University, another of his cherished institutions.

For the last ten years, Juan Guillermo's contributions to the development of the relationship Purdue-Colombia established new connections and collaborations as he actively participated in important projects. Carolyn Percifield, Director of Strategic Planning and Assessment at Purdue and member of the Colombia-Purdue Initiative (CPI) says, "I have known him since I first started going to Medellin in 2007. Throughout the years, he helped us in many ways. He was tenacious about finding the right connection for Purdue and UPB. He was responsible for my first visit to UPB and our connection to the engineering faculty."

Juan Guillermo's affable personality, his interest in education, and his multiple contacts made him an indispensable connection for Purdue faculty and staff visiting Medellín. "Juan’s deep love for Purdue University and its history of astronauts was always on the tip of his tongue as he introduced me to new friends and contacts in Medellin. What a wonderful ambassador Juan Guillermo was for our entire campus," says Robert Cox, Purdue's Senior Associate Dean for Globalization.


The University of the Future workshop was held at Purdue University in 2014. Juan Guillermo Ochoa (7th from left to right in the upper row) assisted in representation of the Board of Directors of Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana.


Juan Guillermo visited Purdue University in 2014 to participate in the “University of the Future” workshop along with board members from top universities in Colombia, executive directors of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and government representatives from the United States and Colombia. The workshop aimed to outline the essential characteristics for universities to be responsive to the 21st century needs of the Americas.

Most recently, Juan Guillermo was participating in the creation of the first Purdue-Colombian Network of Excellence for Aviation and Aero, involving newly established strategic partners from UPB, Universidad de Antioquia, and Universidad Nacional - Medellín. "Since January, 2017, Juan Guillermo Ochoa was instrumental in making connections with Avianca and the Colombian Air Force (FAC) in Rionegro and Bogotá," says Cox, leader of the project. “He was always very welcoming and willing to go the extra mile to help us establish the collaboration between the partnering institutions, Avianca and FAC,” adds José García, Assistant Professor at the School of Engineering Technology and key participant of the project.

Robert Cox and Juan Guillermo Ochoa in a meeting with Avianca, Universidad de Antioquia, UPB, and Universidad Nacional-Medellin in Rionegro on March 2017


Juan Guillermo Ochoa’s professional life was full of experiences and accomplishments. Besides his BS degree in Mechanical Engineering from UPB, he earned an MS degree in the same subject from the University of Missouri - Rolla, and an MBA from Universidad del Valle. He worked for notable companies in the country like Smurfit Kappa Cartón de Colombia, Coltabaco, and Kimberly Clark and was a member of the prestigious Sociedad Antioqueña de Ingenieros y Arquitectos (SAI). He was also a Reserve Colonel for the Colombian Army, always willing to serve his homeland.


“Todo un Caballero”

Juan Guillermo is described by his friends as a gentleman, a great brother, and a good friend. A virtuous and generous man, he always went out of his way to help others. His commitment to social causes was evident in his daily activities: He was a member of the Rotary Club, a member of the Comité de Rehabilitación, and a board member of Hospital Universitario San Vicente Fundación (previously known as San Vicente de Paúl), where he was leading nanotechnology programs. "Juan Guillermo was honest, loyal, and worked tirelessly to help other people," says his girlfriend María Medina.

He was also a man of healthy habits. Juan Guillermo did not let a weekend pass without playing golf, ping pong, or tennis. He also enjoyed dancing and music, but would not drink in excess or smoke. In earlier years, he was also a member of the Regional and National Basketball teams.

Juan Guillermo passed away on May 22nd, 2017, at the age of 72. The Colombia-Purdue community is very saddened by his passing. Juan Guillermo will be greatly missed by his friends at Purdue University and will be remembered as a cheerful individual committed to social causes and the advancement of Colombia throughout education.


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