Friendship comes first, as MBAs from Class of ’01 gather for annual reunion.

It’s been said that you meet people who forget you . . . you forget people you meet  . . . but sometimes you meet people you can’t forget. Those are your friends.

The 11 graduates earning a Global Executive MBA in December 2001 from the Chapman Graduate School in the College of Business Administration at Florida International University (FIU) can’t forget one another. Their friendship has stood the test of increasing years and geographical distance.

Each December, as many of the group who can make it gather to get caught up on each other’s lives. This past December, they met at Perricone’s restaurant in Miami’s Brickell section.

Seated: Roxana Lattanzi, Alejandro Tomadin (Carmen Finol Tomadin’s husband), Carmen Finol Tomadin and Claus Schaale; standing: Manlio Valdes Jr., Eunice Irizarry, Claudio Cury, Pete Rivera and Frederick Owen

Remarkably, eight of the group were able to attend this time. Traveling the farthest was Manlio Valdes (MBA ’01), president of EMEIA (Europe, Middle East, India & Africa) for Ingersoll Rand Climate Solutions.

“Knowing my classmates is one of the great privileges in my life,” said Valdes, who lives in Belgium.

Others attending: Claudio Cury, Eunice Irizarry, Roxana Lattanzi, Frederick Owen, Pete Rivera, Claus Schaale and Carmen Finol Tomadin. Classmates unable to join this reunion: Juan Ferreira, Michael Pustizzi and Jorge Rodriquez.

Conversation never slows.

“Talk is non-stop as we get caught up on each other’s lives,” said Cury, the group’s unofficial organizer. “We talk about families, fun, travel—and even about who’s trying to lose weight.”

The discussion also covers careers. At this reunion, Schaale, with Cisco Systems, told the group he is moving to Germany to become his company’s business development manager for cloud computing. Ferreira who serves as Monsanto’s vice president, Europe, Middle East & Africa, already lives in Europe, in Switzerland.

It isn’t just the annual reunion that keeps the group connected. Other opportunities present themselves, such as in January 2011, when Owen and Ferreira got together when both happened to be vacationing in Bogota, Colombia.

“Plus I send out birthday reminders, and that’s 11 times a year,” Cury said. “Birthday wishes turn into email chat, as we keep each other updated.”

Cury says the group plans a 10-year reunion in 2011.

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