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WOW News

Luis A. Ferre (1904-2003)

BY WOW News staff

October 23, 2003
Copyright © 2003 WOW News. All rights reserved. 

Born Feb. 17, 1904 in Ponce.

Received a bachelor’s degree (1924) and master’s degree (1925) in science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Studied piano with masters Federico Ramos and Aristides Chavier; also mastered the instrument at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston; recorded some albums with famed Puerto Rican pianist Jesus Maria Sanroma.

1925 - Began his professional career at Puerto Rico Iron Works as junior engineer until 1940, when he joined Puerto Rican Cement Inc. as chief engineer. In 1960, he was vice chairman of the leading concrete company on the island.

1937 - Founded the Ponce Public Library; three years later, he ran for mayor of Ponce.

1948 - Ran for resident commissioner under the Republican Statehood Party.

1950 - Founded the Luis A. Ferre Foundation, which resulted in the creation of the Ponce Museum of Art, considered one of the most important museums in the world. The museum, designed by Edward Durrell Stone (Museum of Modern Art in New York, holds more than 1,000 paintings by many artists, including Rubens, Rodin, and Velasquez, as well as 400 sculptures.

Owned the Ponce regional newspaper El Dia, which during the 1970s moved to Guaynabo and became a daily.

1951 - Joined the Constitutional Assembly, which enacted the Commonwealth Constitution.

1953-1957 - Served as representative.

1959 - Pope John XXIII named Ferre as knight of the Holy Sepulcher.

1966 - Member of the U.S. Committee on the Status of Puerto Rico.

1967 - After statehood received 39% of the votes in a status referendum, Ferre, who led a group named "United Statehooders", said: "After the people’s support of statehood [. . .] we will take the necessary actions to accomplish our duty to the people of Puerto Rico. In September, the State Elections Board [now the State Elections Commission] accepted the name and logo of the new political organization, the New Progressive Party (NPP).

1968 - Elected governor under the NPP, ending the nearly two-decade rule of the Popular Democratic Party. Served as governor from 1969 to 1972.

While governor, Ferre provided many benefits to workers, including a Christmas bonus, a shorter workweek (40 hours instead of 48), and maternity leave.

Promoted the ‘Parcelas’ program, which allowed people to get a plot of land to ease the housing problem on the island.

Strengthened the Industrial Development Program and made possible the applicability of the U.S. Food Stamp Program to Puerto Ricans.

Major infrastructure projects were also developed during his tenure, including Las Americas Expressway to Ponce–later renamed the Luis A. Ferre Expressway–and the Medical Center in Rio Piedras.

Ferre did not accept any salary for his work as governor and refused to receive a pension from the government.

1971 - Received the Hoover Medal and the Albert Einstein Commemorative Award from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

1977-1980 - Served as president of the Senate; re-elected to the Senate from 1981 to 1984.

A U.S. delegate to various countries during the U.S. presidencies of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Served as state chairman and national committeeman of the Republican Party in Puerto Rico.

1985 to 1992 - Member of the presidential Christopher Columbus Quincentennial Jubilee Commission.

His contributions to the arts, politics, and society have been widely acknowledged by prestigious institutions such as Harvard University and Springfield College of Massachusetts; the Catholic University, University of Puerto Rico, and Inter American University of Puerto Rico; Pace College in New York; Amherst College; and Florida International University.

1991 - Former President George H.W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Liberty.

Member of the Puerto Rico Academy of Arts & Sciences, the Metropolitan Opera Association, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and a member for life of MIT.

Don Luis described himself as "revolutionary in my ideas, liberal in my objectives, and conservative in my methods."

Ferre was known as an intellectual and a lover of the arts. His thoughts have been compiled in many publications, but his best-known quote is: "Reason does not need to yell, it convinces."

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