Joseph Unanue, funder of Unanue Institute, passes away

Joseph Unanue, former member of the Board of Regents, philanthropist, funder of the Joseph A. Unanue Institute for Latin American Studies at Seton Hall University and supporter of the entire community passed away.

Mr. Unanue and his wife Carmen Ana Casal de Unanue started the Unanue Institute after a large donation they made through the C&J Foundation, which was also established by them, according to an email sent out by University President A. Gabriel Esteban.

According to the Seton Hall website, the donation, lifetime documents of the Puerto Rican poet, suffragist and composer Trina Padilla de Sanz, was made in April 2008.

“The collection includes more than 700 personal correspondence with world renowned literary figures and other influential individuals of the era, original music and compositions and family photographs,” the website said.

The C&J Foundation also supported organizations including Baller Hispanico, Museo Del Barrio and the Archdiocese of Newark, according to the website.

Director of the Unanue Institute Denisse Oller said Mr. Unanue was a great supporter of the students and Seton Hall.

“They (students) called him ‘Papa Joe,'” Oller said. “He was very, very special; very kind hearted. He was a devout man and a loving family man, that came first and foremost.”

She said, through the C&J Foundation, many scholarships were given to students, and not just through the Unanue Institute.

“His generosity went beyond the Unanue Institute,” Oller said. “The C&J Foundation generates as a main source for scholarships.”

Oller said her and a few students took a Seton Hall teddy bear to the hospital a few days before he passed and he was so grateful and kept it on his nightstand for the rest of his time spent there.

“He was a guide, a mentor, he cared for the students,” Oller said. “He wanted to see more Latino students, not just in the arts, but in the fields of business and science, too.”

The website stated Mr. Unanue is the former Chairmen and CEO of Goya Foods, Inc., the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the country. He joined the family firm after his serving in the army, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star.

The website said that Mr. Unanue became acting president in 1972 and then Chairmen, President and CEO after his father’s death in 1976.

“Under his leadership, the company grew from a small regional food company with approximately $8 million in total sales to a global brand with over $800 million in sales and 15 locations worldwide,” the website said.

The website also recognized Mr. Unanue as a community service leader, saying The National Conference of Christians and Jews has twice named Mr. Unanue as “Man of the Year” and The National Minority Suppliers Association awarded him its Leadership Award.

He has also been presented the Key to the City of Boston, the National Hispanic Achievement Award by Hispanic Magazine in 1991 and served as Grand Marshall in both the New York Puerto Rican Day Parade and the Hispanic Heritage Parade, according to the website.

The website said Mr. Unanue graduated from The Catholic University of America with a degree in mechanical engineering, where he later served as a member of the Board of Trustees.

Mr. Unanue is succeeded by his wife, three daughters, son, eighteen grandchildren and one great-grandchild, according to the website.

Lindsay Rittenhouse can be reached at lindsay.rittenhouse@student.shu.edu.

Author: Lindsay Rittenhouse

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