Rodolfo Segovia, the affable Colombian whose business acumen led to successful careers in both the public and private sectors, recently ended a stint as a visiting scholar with the College of Business and Economics.
A long-serving honorary fellow with Lehigh’s Martindale Center, Segovia is highly regarded as an international tour-de-force after having served on the board of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, or Oxy
—the world’s third largest oil company—since 1994.
His resume also includes public service in his native Colombia, where he served as both minister of Public Works and Transportation and as a member of the Colombian Senate.
It’s a career path that gives Segovia a rather unique perspective on international business and, more importantly, global citizenship.
“There’s certainly a level of intensity that Rodolfo brings to any conversation that really draws you in,” says Rich Aronson, director of the Martindale Center
and a long-time friend of the Colombian businessman. “His experiences help him to add a great deal of realism to the level of discussion, melding both the academic and the practical.”
Segovia shared that insight with Lehigh students and faculty during his stay, which culminated in a lecture about the international resurgence of Occidental Petroleum.
But his interest in sharing more about his Latin American culture led to a handful of informal discussions with undergraduate- and graduate-level students spanning each of Lehigh’s colleges, including presentations ranging from Colombia’s rebirth on the world stage to Latin America’s business climate.
It also included a discussion among Spanish-speaking students at Lehigh. Andres Blohm, a native Venezuelan and a senior in Lehigh’s arts and engineering program, had an opportunity to join the conversation.
“It was a great privilege having someone visit Lehigh who has been so influential in another environment such as Colombia, where economic, political and social issues differ greatly from those in the U.S.,” says Blohm. “I think it is important to think outside of each country's domestic problems and to become more involved with helping other countries…”
“Talking like old friends”
William Hunter agrees. The director of Lehigh’s Global Union and the university’s representative to the United Nations, Hunter was impressed with the way Segovia put the students at ease and the rapport he has built with the Lehigh community over the years.
He said Segovia’s visit reminded him of Lehigh’s popular Global Village
program, which focuses on international leadership and cross-cultural training.
“At one point I felt as if the group of students and Rodolfo were just talking like old friends,” says Hunter. “He gave his perspective on a number of global issues, answered questions regarding economic concerns, and offered a macro view that only he could provide. What an opportunity for the students to hear from such a visionary."
Segovia’s stay came to close in at a New York City reception, where he was honored by Lehigh’s Martindale Society, a collection of previous Martindale Scholars and Lehigh alumni. Nine representatives from consulate-generals also attended the reception.
Segovia has long been affiliated with Lehigh. Aside from his partnership with the Martindale Center, Lehigh is also the alma mater of his sons Jorge ’89 and Mauricio ’91.
In addition to his position with Occidental Petroleum, Segovia currently serves on the board and the executive committee of Sanford Investments International, a private diversified conglomerate. He is the recipient of Colombia’s highest distinguished engineers award and of the Order of Merit of the French Republic.
He was also the first president of Ecopetrol, the Colombian National Oil Company, and later spent many years—including a few as president—with Petroquímica Colombiana S. A., Sanford’s PVC venture. He previously served as president of Propilco, the group’s polypropylene investment.
“International experience improves self-confidence and widens your perspective,” says Aronson
, who first met Segovia in the 1980s when he was visiting Lehigh’s campus with his son, Jorge. “It’s central to Global Lehigh and what we’re trying to accomplish through that initiative, and Segovia is the type of individual who embodies that spirit.”