Yolanda Nader's journey to success began in 1962 when, as a child, her family emigrated from Cuba. Life wasn't easy. "As firstgeneration immigrants, we had a lot of financial struggles," she said – yet she knew education was her ticket to economic stability.
While in junior high school she met Carmen Martinez, the school's librarian. Noticing her determination and dedication to her academic endeavors, Martinez took Nader under her wing. After Nader graduated from high school, Martinez helped pave the way for her, financially and emotionally, to go to college. Martinez, a founder of the Cuban Women's Club, spearheaded efforts to establish a college scholarship at FIU, and Nader was chosen as the first recipient.
"She had this blind faith in me that I could do anything," Nader said. "She was a great role model and encouraged me."
Now, as CEO and CFO of Dosal Tobacco and deeply involved in the community, Nader (MBA '86) hopes to fill a similar role for others. She is funding the Yolanda Nader.
First Generation Business Scholarship Endowment with a $200,000 gift, which will fully cover all four years of tuition for students who are the first in their family to attend college.
"I've been very blessed," said Nader, speaking of the difference Martinez and others made in her life. "I was surrounded by people who were successful and showed me opportunities. I want to pay it forward."
After earning her FIU degree in psychology, marriage, motherhood and work in child psychology and development, Nader rethought her career. She received an FIU MBA and started working as an Internal Revenue Service agent. Earning her CPA, she left for the private sector, working her way up to tax managing director at KPMG in Miami. Joining Dosal Tobacco in 2001, she has had the opportunity to grow and steady the business as its CEO and CFO for the last 19 years. "It has been a very rewarding experience," she said.
Among her many honors, she was named the 2009 CFO of the Year by the South Florida Business Journal, and in 2016 was the recipient of FIU's Distinguished Alumni Torch Award. She serves on the board of directors and executive committee of the Beacon Council. A long-time supporter of FIU's College of Business, Nader sits on the college's Dean's Council.
She hopes her gift will ease the financial anxiety that troubles so many students.
"I want them to feel they will have four years covered," she said. "I still worked full time, but I had the peace of mind that my tuition was covered. Now, I want to give back."