Vilar’s quest to help the arts
And now, noting Alberto Vilar’s $300 million in contributions to the performing arts, health care and education in the Colorado and across the United States, Gov. Bill Owens has declared July 19 Alberto Vilar Day.”What’s amazing is that not only has he given to international and national institutions, but locally,” says Tony O’Rourke, executive director of Beaver Creek Resort Company. “He thinks globally, but also acts locally. It’s unique. His purpose isn’t just to better the arts, but it’s an example for all the wealthy people in the country.”Vilar’s passion for classical music started when he was 7 years old and wanted to play the violin.”My father, as a good Cuban “machista,’ didn’t want me to play the violin, so I memorized full pieces by heart,” he says. “He thought I should be doing sports and not concentrate in music and the church. He used to say I should play soccer, go out with women and then have five girls.”Vilar, instead, enjoyed being an altar boy.”A little Cuban boy should have been chasing the girls, but I was very shy,” he recalls.Cuban daysBorn in Newark, N.J., Vilar was raised an only son by his father, an executive for a sugar company, and his grandmother in Cuba and Puerto Rico.In 1959, Vilar came to the United States to study at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, where he got his B.A. He never returned to live in Cuba.The college subsequently awarded Vilar an honorary doctorate of humanities in 1998. He earn an MBA from Iona College in 1969, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities in 2000. He also completed the course work for a doctoral program in mathematical economics at New York University.”I was a straight-A student,” says Vilar, whose first job was with Citibank in New York. “I was very good at math, but after a while I told my dad, “I don’t want to be a banker. I’m going to try my luck on Wall Street.'”Vilar started investing in technology stocks in the late 1960s. In a few years, he says, he had made his first $2 million dollars.But it wasn’t until the 1980s, when he founded Amerindo Investment Advisors, that his fortune grew to an estimated $1 billion.Amerindo was an early and very large investor in many of the successful technology companies of the last two decades, including Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, Parametric Technology, America Online, Yahoo!, and eBay.”I was richer than Bill Gates for a while,” says Vilar, the first public investor in Microsoft.Health issuesIn addition to his passion for music, Vilar has strong ties to the medical world. And through his many doctor friends he shares his passion for music and his gifts to research programs.”I was misdiagnosed for 30 years for a pulmonary problem,” he says, “which was finally diagnosed and cured at the National Jewish Medical & Research Center in Denver.”Among his many gifts in the field of health care, Vilar has provided major funding for the Hospital for Special Surgery and Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York, as much as the National Jewish Medical & Research Center, where he’ll fund a center for research and treatment of respiratory, allergic and immune diseases. Vilar also is the lead supporter of an internship program run by the American Austrian Foundation, in coordination with the Cornell-Salzburg Medical Seminars, a training program that has brought nearly 5,000 doctors to Salzburg and Vienna from Eastern Europe and Russia.”In the next 10 years, one of these hospitals that are doing research will come with some important discoveries for medicine,” he says proudly.Recently, Vilar recuperated from three surgeries on his back, including one for a perforated ulcer.”Doctors told me I might not walk again,” he says. “I was out of commission for a while. But I’m back, and there are some more things I’d like to do for the Vail Valley.”Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.