Ralph Roca '88 |President
A 1988 Columbus graduate, Ralph is D.R. Horton’s Division President for Southeast Florida which comprises Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties. He has been with the company since 1993, where he began as an assistant superintendent and has continued to rise through the ranks. In his more than two decades with D.R. Horton Inc., the largest public homebuilder in the country for 14 consecutive years, Roca has accomplished many of his professional goals.
During his tenure, he has doubled the number of D.R. Horton communities; increased year-over-year sales; and kept D.R. Horton at the forefront of Florida’s homebuilding industry by embracing innovation while remaining dedicated to D.R. Horton’s timeless commitment to genuine quality. His future goals for his division include continuing to meet the demand for quality family residences and continually evolving lifestyle demands of Florida’s current and future homeowners.
Roca attended FIU’s School of Engineering, earning a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Construction Management. He was born and raised in Miami to Cuban-born parents and has two sisters and two brothers. Rafael has been happily married since 1996 to his lovely wife Elena Roca and together they have five wonderful kids, Elena, Ralphy, Carlos, Justin, and Mia. Rafael and Elena will have at least one of their boys in attendance at Christopher Columbus High School for 11 consecutive years.
Ralph has served on the Columbus Alumni Board for more than 5 years and is an integral member of the community. His community service has included the Kiwanis Club of Little Havana and serving as Head Coach for the Kendall Boys & Girls Club tackle football team. Rafael also spends much of his family time coaching his kids in various sporting activities; and he enjoys fishing, skiing, and most of all, being with his family and friends.
Daniel A. Brea ‘95 | Executive Committee Member
A 1995 Columbus graduate, Dan is a Vice President and Portfolio Officer at BNY Mellon Wealth Management. He works directly with individual clients to ensure that their overall investment and wealth management objectives are met. This includes establishing investment objectives, implementation of an investment strategy, and ongoing monitoring of strategy to ensure it remains within the client’s overall goals. He has built his career at BNY Mellon over the past 13 years, focusing on high net worth clients with over $2 million in liquid assets. His services include Financial, Retirement, and Estate Planning. Dan holds an undergraduate degree with a dual major in International Finance and Marketing from the University of Miami. He earned his MBA from the University of Miami with a specialization in Personal Financial Planning, and is a CFP® professional. Dan was recognized in Poder Hispanic Magazine in their “20 Under 40 Corporate Rising Stars” list in June of 2013.
Santiago Eljaiek '91 | Executive Committee Member
A 1991 Columbus graduate, Santiago is the founding and managing partner of Marin, Eljaiek & Lopez, PL., a full service law firm with offices in Coconut Grove and Coral Gables. He serves as the head of the Transaction Department for the Firm and focuses his practice on commercial and residential real estate, mergers and acquisitions, asset based and structured lending and general corporate agreements. He received his Bachelors of Science, with honors, in Business Administration and Management from the University of Florida and received his Juris Doctorate degree from the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida. Santiago also serves as outside general counsel for a variety of profit and not-for-profit Corporations and Condominium Associations. He is a member of the Florida Bar, Business Law and Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Sections, Dade County Bar Association and Cuban American Bar Association.
Tony Medina '91 | Executive Committee Member
A 1991 Columbus graduate, Tony is the Partner/Co-Founder of Medina & Martinez, P.L. (MMPL), a South Florida CPA firm specializing in management advisory services and corporate and individual income tax preparation and planning. He is a successful, 20-year industry veteran well-versed in accounting, audit and assurance, financial/operational project management, technology consulting, and forensic and litigation support services. Tony earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the Fisher School of Accounting at the University of Florida and later received a Master of Science in Taxation from Florida International University. Tony currently serves on the Leadership Council of the UF Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program and has served as president of the UF Association of Hispanic Alumni and Gator Club of Miami. He is a licensed CPA in Florida and Georgia and is an active member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants where he served as Board Member and Chair of the UF/FICPA Accounting Conference.
Anthony Petisco '00 | Executive Committee Member
A 2000 Columbus graduate, Anthony is a Financial Consultant for Total Wealth Management (a division of TotalBank). He is responsible for providing financial planning services and investment advice to high net worth clients. Prior to joining Total Wealth Management, Anthony worked in the same capacity at Coconut Grove Financial, Colonial Brokerage and Mercantile Securities, a division of The South Financial Group. He has also worked at SunTrust Bank. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida International University.
Rudy Puig '90 | Executive Committee Member
A 1990 Columbus Graduate, Rudy is President of Dade Federal Security, a family owned company that has been providing Security to South Florida businesses for over 37 years. He also has owned four Cold Stone Creamery stores, and is currently owner of the Cold Stone Creamery in South Kendall. He served on the Franchise Board of Directors for 5 years, representing all the stores in the Southeast United States and Puerto Rico. Rudy holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from University of Central Florida. He also continues to volunteer as a coach at Kendall Boys & Girls club where he has coached for over 10 years.
Hugo Alvarez '91
A 1991 Columbus graduate, Hugo is a shareholder at Becker & Poliakoff. His practice focuses on general civil litigation and real estate with a strong focus on insurance claims, and commercial disputes. He was awarded the 2017 Legal Luminary Award by the Dade County Bar Association. He's been recognized in Best Lawyers in America. He has also been honored in Florida’s Super Lawyer Magazine, Florida Trend’s Legal Elite, and as one of South Florida’s top “Up and Comers” in the South Florida Business Journal. He previously served as a law clerk/appellate case manager in the 15th Judicial Circuit to current Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga. He received his B.A., with distinction, with a double major in Political Science and Public Management from the Univ. of Maine and received his law degree from the Tulane University of School of Law.
Ernie Castro '87
A 1987 Columbus graduate, Ernie Castro is an industry veteran who has spent his entire career in the adult beverage business. He is a Florida native and a graduate of Florida International University. Ernie joined the Coastal Wine & Spirits family in December of 2004 as the Director of Chain Strategy and then transitioned into Vice President of Trade Development for spirits. He helped lead various changes in commercial strategy and provided our sales teams with greater insight and visibility into our systems and models. In addition, he played a major role in the supplier NGG ways of working transition and has taken the role of a mentor and coach. In 2011 he was promoted to Vice President / General Manager – Chain Division where he was challenged to build a World Class selling organization. In March of 2016, Ernie Castro was promoted to Executive Vice President / General Manager Florida, tasked with leading the Coastal Division. His goal is to help mold people for both personal and professional growth.
Ernie is married with 3 children. His eldest son, Ernesto, graduated from Columbus in 2013, while his youngest son, Francisco, will be part of the 2021 graduating class. He enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time with family and friends.
Rolando Conesa '77
A 1977 Columbus graduate, Rolando, a Principal with MGE Architects in Coral Gables has an architectural career that spans over 20 years. His experience includes the planning and designing of many facilities, including commercial, healthcare, education, residential and transportation projects. Rolando holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Miami and a Masters of Building Technology and Architectural Design from Columbia University.
Tom Culmo '80
A 1980 Columbus graduate, Tom owns and manages Culmo Trial Attorneys based in Coral Gables. He specializes in civil litigation and has extensive courtroom experience in both state and federal courts. He is one of the few trial lawyers in Florida board certified in civil trial practice by both the Florida Bar and the National Board of Trial Advocacy. His firm handles a wide variety of matters ranging from business and insurance disputes, serious injury, medical negligence, and wrongful death. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania & Mercer University School of Law.
Avian Guerra '04
A 2004 Columbus graduate, Avian is the General Manager of La Caja China. A family owned business known for their unique cooking style, Avian’s family is the creator of the wooden box that roasts any type of meat conveniently and deliciously. It is most popularly known as the Chinese Box and has been featured on the Food Network and has won the approval of Barbeque Chef Bobby Flay. He received his Bachelors of Science from Florida International University’s School of Hospitality Management.
Nelson Hernandez '03
A 2003 Columbus graduate, Nelson Hernandez is a Wealth Advisor with Coral Gables Trust, dedicating his time to helping clients obtain a comprehensive understanding of prudent wealth management concepts. Engaged in the community, Nelson is a gubernatorial appointee to the South Florida Regional Council and a Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners appointee to the Housing Finance Authority of Miami-Dade County which approves millions of dollars for affordable housing projects throughout the county. Also involved in philanthropic organizations, Nelson is an executive board member of the United Way of Miami-Dade County Young Leaders Society and regularly volunteers throughout the community. He serves on the Board of Trustees for the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora. Nelson is also very involved with Leadership Florida; a graduate of their Connect Florida leadership program and member of Leadership Florida’s statewide Finance Committee. Attached to his second alma mater, Nelson is a member of the University of Miami Citizens Board. He is also a founding Board Member of the Columbus Accounting & Financial Executives “CAFE” alumni organization. In 2012, Nelson was named one of Florida State University’s “Notable Alumni” – an award commemorating alumni for significant contributions to their professions, communities or alma mater.
Nelson earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics & Political Science from Florida State University and his Master in Business Administration degree from the University of Miami, focusing in finance and accounting.
Alvaro Luis '89
A 1989 Columbus graduate, Alvaro is the Senior Vice President for Ocean Bank, the largest independent, state-chartered commercial bank headquartered in Florida. He is a seasoned banker with over 20 years of experience in the financial sector. He holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Florida International University. Alvaro also dedicates much of his free time to young children by coaching in three different youth leagues. Currently, he resides in Miami with his wife Ivette and his three children Alvaro Javier [AJ], Carolina and Vanessa .
Danny Martinez '89
Danny Martinez has over 25 years of banking experience. Prior to joining Professional Bank, Mr. Martinez worked for financial institutions such as Citibank, Union Planters Bank-Private Banking Division and Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust Co. where he served as a Senior Vice President and Market Manager formulating relationships with high net worth individuals and families as well as professionals within the legal, accounting and medical communities. A native Miamian, Mr. Martinez serves on the Board of Directors at Christopher Columbus High School, St. John Neumann Catholic Preparatory School, South Florida Banking Institute, where he served as past President, The Cuban American Bar Association (CABA) Pro Bono section and the Sebastianstrong Foundation, which raises awareness and funds to help find a cure for Pediatric Cancer. He is also a past board member of the Miami Dade Chapter for Rebuilding Together, Amigos for Kids and a past member of the volunteer committee for Mercy Hospital. Mr. Martinez attended Christopher Columbus High School and then Nova Southeastern University where he received a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management. As a key member of the Executive Management team at Professional Bank, Mr. Martinez shares responsibility for the daily management of the bank. In addition, he oversees the Marketing Division, Probate and Guardianship Department and Branch-Private Banking area along with an emphasis and focus on client and community relations.
William Real '88
A 1988 Columbus graduate, William "Willy" is the Founder and CEO of Civic Construction Company. A company specialized in servicing the private developments and institutional sectors, constructing various high-rise, mid-rise, multi-family developments and hospitality hotel projects, as well as townhomes, custom luxury residences, restaurants and office buildings. In addition, to private developments, Civic Construction manages many commercial, retail and public educational facilities projects, from the state of Florida to the state of New York. As a State Certified General Contractor for 22 years, William has been dedicated his career to serving clients through high quality, competitive pricing, professionalism and becoming a single source development and construction service company. By partnering with his clients in all aspects of their developments, from its conceptual idea through its final realization, he has built a solid reputation as an industry leader. William is a graduate from the University of Miami’s School of Architecture.
Daniel Rodriguez '08
A 2008 Columbus graduate, Danny is the founder and CEO of non-profit organization, BLUE Missions. Since inception in 2010, BLUE has worked in 73 rural communities throughout Latin America constructing safe water and sanitation systems impacting over 22,000 individuals. BLUE has facilitated authentic immersion experiences for over 1,400 high school & university students nationwide resulting in over 300,000 hours of community service. BLUE volunteers learn about the importance of being global citizens and are challenged to develop solutions and distribution strategies assuring that the world’s most compromised individuals have access to basic human rights such as health, education, and clean water. Danny holds an undergraduate degree with a dual major in Finance & International Business from Florida International University.
Jose "Juice" Rodriguez '78
A 1978 Columbus Graduate, Jose “Juice” is the Controller for a Property Management firm based in Miami. He has managed various real estate portfolios all over the country, specializing in commercial and residential properties. Prior to working for this property management company, Jose was employed by General Electric and American Express as a financial auditor and Regional Controller. Jose graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and an MBA from Barry University. He currently resides in Coral Gables, Florida and is also involved with various organizations that are researching to find a cure for cancer.
Raul "RJ" Sanchez de Varona '81
A 1981 Columbus graduate, RJ Sanchez de Varona is the principal at MEC Development Associates. MEC is co-developer of Cassa Grove; and is currently structuring several other Cassa projects in Broward and Miami-Dade. Additionally, MEC has developed a strategic alliance with a very successful national hotel development and management company. That alliance is currently brokering the sale of a property servicing Miami International Airport, and jointly planning the development of a four star property on North Bay Village. RJ is a part of the Real Estate Committee of The Underline Project, participates in the Mentoring Program of the University of Miami School of Business, is a member of the Columbus Builders Alliance and an active participant of the Columbus Mentoring Program, and very active in the MAST Academy PTSA as a Board member. He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in International Finance and Marketing (1984) and subsequently a Juris Doctor degree (1989) from the University of Miami.
Carlos Somoza '89
A 1989 Columbus graduate, Carlos is an attorney and international tax principal at Kaufman, Rossin & Co. He has served clients in the private and public industries, advising them in the areas of international taxation, taxable acquisitions and tax-free reorganizations, IRS litigation and related tax compliance. Carlos also provides estate planning and pre-immigration planning for foreign, high-net worth individuals. Carlos earned a Bachelor's degree in Accounting from Florida International University, and a Juris Doctor and LL.M. in Taxation from the University of Miami (specialization in international taxation). He is licensed to practice law in Florida and in the United States Tax Court. Carlos is involved with the Florida International University Honors College, serving as the Vice President of its Honors College Alumni Board and serving as Treasurer of its Community Advisory Board. He received a F.I.U. Torch Award awarded to outstanding alumni. In addition, he is involved with the Miami-Dade Legal Aid “Put Something Back” program, offering legal and tax services to indigent clients.
Kevin Testa '95
A 1995 Columbus graduate, Kevin is the Managing Partner for Grain & Barrel Spirits. Grain & Barrel Spirits is a craft spirits company focused on the creation of truly innovative new products and redevelopment of historically significant brands. Prior to Grain & Barrel he spent 2 and a half years at Diageo managing innovation and emerging brands across several States in the United States. Diageo is a multinational alcoholic beverages company headquartered in London, England. It is the world's largest producer of spirits and a major producer of beer and wine. Prior to working for Diageo, Kevin spent 13 years with the E. & J. Gallo Winery, the largest winery in the World, as well as a leading producer of spirits, in various positions around the World. Kevin graduated from the University of Florida with a BSBA degree, majoring in Finance. As well, he has a MBA from Wake Forest University. He currently lives in South Miami with his wife Carly, and two boys Nico and Luca.