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Alumni - Testemonials

"FEP in my time" is a set of interviews with different Alumni of the School, with different and inspiring academic and professional paths.

Ricardo Fonseca

Ricardo Fonseca (1944, Baião), one daughter and two granddaughters

  • Year of admission – 1963 Military Service in the Navy (1969-1972)
  • First job: ITT (1972-1975)
  • Administrator at STCP: (1975-1990)
  • Vice-President of Macau Television: (1990-1992)
  • Chief Executive Officer at STCP: (1992-1996)
  • Chairman of the Board of Directors at APDL: since 1996

How was the Porto School of Economics and Management back then?

The School was located in a little corner in the attic of the School of Sciences. There were just a few students, and we all knew each other’s names. The "famous" mathematics and infinitesimal calculus courses were taught in the School of Arts and Humanities, together with the students of the School of Sciences and Engineering. Wearing a tie to exams was almost a requirement. Hardly anyone wore jeans and girls dressed in formal attire. The colleagues we had the least contact with were the so-called "volunteer" students i.e. mostly working students who had to make a greater effort compared to the other students, in order to keep up with us in the programme. Their presence was only mandatory in practical classes. There were groups which gravitated a lot around the cafés, at which most students lingered. For many students, a significant part of their learning activity happened at the cafés. Besides "Piolho" there were other cafés close to the School such as "Estrela" and "Avis". As I was living on Rua Faria Guimarães and other colleagues lived nearby as well, "Satélite" was the café where we used to hang out. They were true study lounges to the point that some cafés displayed signs in areas where studying was forbidden, since students would buy just a coffee and sit at a table the whole day.

After all these years, what do you recall with particular satisfaction of that time?

Particularly the camaraderie and the "somewhat crazy" days of "Queima das Fitas" (student festival). The jokes used in the parade had a lot of imagination. Some floats displayed a very creative design with a witty angle, which the public enjoyed quite a bit. As a result of this camaraderie, for example, the so-called "Satélite group" used to spend the Easter holidays at one of the houses which belonged to my family in Baião. And although we carried some study books with us, as far as I remember, they never were unpacked. Sérgio Godinho in the first year, and José Fernando (Madureira Pinto) were part of this group.

And the more negative moments?

I have to highlight there my failing at General Mathematics. We never knew for sure when the results of the written exams would be made public. One day I received a phone call from a colleague warning me that the results of the written exam for General Mathematics were out and that the oral exam would take place the following day. Of all students of Economics and Engineering I believe only five of them did not fail the written exam. A few minutes into the oral exam, the professor (Fernandes de Sá) asked me to prove the "Archimedes’ Axiom". I was convinced that my brain went blank. I couldn’t remember the way to prove it and when looking at the public I could tell they looked puzzled as well. After a few painful minutes, which to me felt like an eternity, the examining professor said: "Dear Mr student, haven’t you learned in your third high school year that axioms cannot be proved? Your oral exam is over"! In the second season exam he gave me 16 points, maybe because he felt bad for having been mean.

What is the identity of FEP? Its specificities and features which make it stand out. So, what is the School of Economics and Management of the University of Porto?

The School of Economics and Management provided me the knowledge that allowed me to start my professional career with relative ease. Today I can better recognise the School as having provided me with a solid foundation.

After these years of professional experience what would you highlight in the training that you have received? Something that you can tell that without it you wouldn’t have achieved what you have achieved.

It’s not easy to highlight, but I now do justice to courses which at the time were considered by us, or at least by most of the students, of very little usefulness, but which today I consider having been very important for the training of students of a programme such as economics. I’m referring to mathematics. There might have been some exaggeration in its development (why the need to learn how to calculate a triple integral?) but it was an important contribution to thought modelling.

Based on your professional experience, what advice would you give the new generations of economists?

Today’s reality is quite different from that I had to deal with when I started to work. At the time, when looking for a job we could generally afford to choose one of several alternatives available to us. I only looked for my very first job. Later my career developed following challenges and invitations made to me. However, there’s a principle which was valid at the time and that I still defend and that is that the first professional steps should be connected to a certain stability, allowing for the consolidation of what has been learned at the School. Great anxiety and high professional turnover are extremely detrimental. The professional experience I acquired at ITT, particularly while in charge of the Internal Audit of the Oliva/Rabor group, was crucial to consolidating the theory acquired at the School.

Interview conducted by Pedro Quelhas Brito

OFF the Record:

Contrasting the restraint and discreet attitude of today’s Dr Ricardo Fonseca, young Ricardo knew how to have fun. For his first "Queima das Fitas" he built a box camera with a squeeze bottle inside (with scented water). Of course, during the parade, he was asked to take pictures of the public watching it. However instead of the "little bird" only a squirt of water would come out, very much to the enjoyment of those who had asked to be photographed.
That was the same year the best picture award went to "Fellini 8½". On his back, the "photographer" had a sign with the wording: "Better yet – S.......r 43 _ " - a direct reference to Salazar, which could have cost him a lot.

José Roquette

José Roquette (1936, Lisbon)
Margarida and José Roquette, on the old premises of FEP

  • Six children, sixteen grandchildren
  • Year of admission: 1953
  • First job: Banco Espírito Santo e Comercial de Lisboa
  • Entrepreneur

Who is José Roquette?

At this point I’m someone who has had a life journey which owes the School of Economics and Management quite a lot. Prior to the School, I went to Colégio Brotero, at Foz do Douro, for eleven years. I am the only one of eleven children who was born in Lisbon. As usual, my parents were in Lisbon for the summer, to spend some time with my father’s family, which are from Lisbon, although he was professionally associated with Porto. I was admitted to the School at the age of 16, but I was already 17 years old when classes started in November, for a programme with students averaging 30+ years, as many graduated students from "Instituto Comercial" awaited the opening of the School, but were already employed. I was the youngest one in the programme and since the School’s scheme was identical to that of the Schools of Law, the first years of the programme were anything but easy.

How was the School of Economics and Management of the University of Porto back then?

A School with an ongoing implementation had various problems starting with the physical facilities on the top floor of the School of Sciences. Everything related to mathematics took place at the School of Sciences, which caused some turmoil. Anyhow, the mix of Professors that they were able to gather was one of the most important assets. The availability of funds, but also personal connections, made it possible to hire some great names in the field of European economics at the time to teach at the School of Economics, such as Raymond Barre and Jacques Rueff, which provided an unusual contact when compared to other Schools in Portugal. The first year was one of an extremely high selection process, which saw the number of 200 students reduce to a little more than 30 going forward into the second year. We were just a few. More than half of my colleagues were professionals in contact with the working life. I remember how difficult it was when I got to the third year without ever having heard of debit and credit, since I was admitted directly from high school. But I was lucky to have the support of José António Sarmento, who was both a great man and a great professor, who unfortunately passed away in 1960, but whose work was continued by Manuel Baganha. That helped to start my professional life in accounting without any problems and to reach the position of Chief Accounting Officer at Banco Espírito Santo. From there I became Business Manager and remained in that position until 11 March 1975, the time of the nationalisation processes, when I was the bank’s Chief Executive for the country. At the age of 24, I was responsible for the accounting department, which at the time included all the bank’s "back-office" and control. When I moved to the bank’s sales department, I asked myself at what point had I discovered the vocation for risk taking as a businessman’s professional fulfilment.

When did your life as a businessman start?

In 1961, when I entered a partnership with my friend Dr João Flores, who implemented "Pão-de-Açucar" in Portugal. We created a limited liability company with the purpose of selling in Lisbon the equipment my father manufactured in Porto. That was my very first experience. Afterwards at the Espírito Santo Group I learned both the management and the risk perception in decision-making, since as one climbs the ladder, responsibilities also become larger.

In these 50 years after your admission to FEP what makes you smile when you look back?

We were very few from the second year onwards and that helped creating a collective sense of fulfilment, which besides being extremely positive also marked the first years of my professional life a lot. Different broadened groups were organised to tackle questions and the professors showed a lot of goodwill, even if some of them lived in Coimbra, which was the case of both Professor Seabra and Professor Almeida Garrett. This promoted a sense of collective atmosphere and effort as well as teamwork. In that regard, José António Sarmento was exceptional by creating teams of 4 and 5 with a specific project for each group. That played a big role in establishing a great quality work environment.

I also remember some funny things. We were very few students and, as a School, we had to participate in sports. I played everything: football, handball, ping-pong, tennis, (laughter) as it was difficult to form teams.

Any not so pleasant situation?

Regrettably, I later noticed the occurrence of some divisions, and many fell out with each other and walked off, maybe because of political reasons.

What is the identity of FEP? What is so specific about the School? What is unique to the period of 1953-58?

Participation in courses of each academic year was marked by the legal training, which had a very strong clout. Between that type of training and the accounting component there was the whole universe of statistics and econometrics. One of the things I believe I have retained for life was the dialectical skills and the way of approaching problems provided by the legal training, as well as the mathematical rigor for those with some vocation. An example of this is the mathematical demonstration with derivatives of the law of diminishing utility, by way of legal training rhetoric. Economics was a course lectured by people without any training in mathematics, such as Prof. Seabra and Prof. Almeida Garrett, a disadvantage which they overcame by using legal reasoning. However, this provided us with skills to analyse the very large concrete problems although, as was the case in Portugal at that time, the School had trouble conveying specific, concrete and objective knowledge. My professional life truly started when I left the School to go work at Banco Espírito Santo, on Avenida dos Aliados.

The remainder were tools which I might or might not make use of depending on my skills.

With my predisposition towards mathematics, I used the slide rule, an instrument only used by my colleagues from the School of Engineering. But as the slide rules had an exponential scale, allowing for the calculation of compound interest, it helped me later with the first computer ever to be installed in Portugal, which was at Banco Espírito Santo. This was in 1963. It was the UNIVAC 1005 and had only 32K of memory. It was such an extraordinary thing as it could read punched tape and execute the control by means of card punching, which was the type of input used at the time. It controlled balances, account transactions, interest calculation, and issuance of bank statements via a printer. The first spreadsheet that came around (in 1962) was the Visicalc, which was marketed by Visicorp, which in turn was bought up by Lotus later on. Back then I already had designed a programme for HP in a little widget that they had - the HP41cv - which allowed for the uploading of a software I named "cash-flow analysis" onto magnetic cards, which became one of the best sold programmes. I have created several other programmes for HP.

Which advice would you give the new generations of FEP students?

The first thing is to believe that university education is important but is not everything. It provides tools and undeniable skills to face problems as complex as those that life challenges us with. There are no perfect schools. I and other business people in Portugal would like to see a younger business class with the skills to create, do things, accept challenges, and take risks. I would like it for the business vocation that the country so desperately needs to be more prevalent. The difference between the entrepreneur and the manager lies in the fact that the former usually takes risks regarding what they own. It is my conviction that Portugal as a country, as a project and as a culture will only have a future if the private sector takes responsibility for it. The State is a bad manager, it is not efficient, and it has a set of unassailable tasks, such as those related to sovereignty, personal and collective security, justice, and so on, but in a global economy it is paramount that the entrepreneurs take on the responsibility of conceiving the future of the country. The goal is to build for the future generations, involving long term projects. It would also be better if the political class would follow that same standard, if they would worry about the Portuguese people who will be born in the future, since those who worry about future generations display the statesmanship necessary for us to continue to assert ourselves as both a People and a Nation in these such difficult times.

Interview conducted by Prof. Pedro Quelhas Brito

Odete Patrício

Odete Patrício (1955, Paredes)

  • One child
  • Year of admission: 1972
  • First job: Bial
  • General Director of Serralves Foundation

Who is Odete Patrício?

I was born in Paredes. I went to the Penafiel high school, as there was no high school in Paredes at the time. I’m an only child, all the attention and all expectations were set on me, since I was born a girl and my father wanted a boy. My education was defined by that fatherly wish. My father has always projected many ambitions on me and as far as that goes it was very good because I became stricter with myself, which indeed I am. My passion was psychology, but my father believed that Economics provided better professional opportunities. So, it could be anything provided it was Economics. I’m an Economist by imposition, not by vocation.

And then you came to Porto?

I came to Porto and so did my parents. I was admitted to the School in 1972 at the age of 17. I usually say that at the beginning it was hard because I was very young and I came to a School where I didn’t know anybody, having just arrived from the province. The students from Porto already had their colleagues from the "Rainha", "Carolina", or "D. Manuel" high schools, but I landed kind of like an "alien" on a School full of strangers, I was completely detached, and in an environment I wasn’t used to. For its time, Penafiel high school was a vanguard institution because it was mixed (for boys and girls), was quite informal and the students had a lot of freedom of movement. We all got along well, we played a lot, and then all of a sudden landing in the attic of the building on Praça dos Leões, surrounded by all those professors, for the most part a lot older than us, it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. There were very few teaching assistants. If I remember right, at that time there was Daniel Bessa, who was a teaching assistant and younger, much closer to us in age, and then there were Professors Seabra, Pinto Ramos, Pedroso, Baganha… They were that generation of old School professors with a very professorial and authoritarian demeanour, very distant from us. So, yes, I remember it was a huge shock for me, since I wasn’t used to it. Despite everything, I was used to a system that allowed greater proximity, and besides university teaching being very different from that at high school, all of a sudden there were all these people around me, with other demeanours and from other generations. At the beginning, I felt really lost. What helped me some was the fact that before admission to the School I had started dating an engineering student and indeed having a boyfriend was fundamental in coping with all those impacts, otherwise I would have felt really bad. Fortunately, I was already dating, I hung out a lot around Café Universidade and "Piolho", I studied there a lot, as at the time we used to study a lot in the cafés, they were our study room. I was already politically aware. I remember being chased by the police and also the general meetings held at "Leões", which were obviously clandestine. So, I witnessed the days when everything was a surprise and new. To sum up, integration at the School was rough.

And then the 25th of April happened...

I was 18 years old… and that was a phantastic age to live the 25th of April. We had nothing to lose, everything to gain, and at the time I stood very much on the left, so I lived the 25th of April very intensely and very enthusiastically.

Before the 25th of April, it was the shock I’ve mentioned before, with a rigid and authoritarian system. I concluded the courses without much enthusiasm. They were taught in a very hasty way, and we didn’t feel they had any connection with reality. I also didn’t have big expectations since I hadn’t gone into Economics by vocation.

In any case I felt a bit odd. Obviously due to my upbringing I wasn’t used to questioning. I was a well-behaved girl; I did what I had to do, and I didn’t question it. And then the 25th of April came along. I was getting ready for the second year exams. It was a very interesting time from a personal point of view. I experienced everything very intensely. I was in the streets. I lived next to the former PIDE facilities. From my window I could see the chaimite vehicles driving by. It was a very exciting experience.

Those years, especially 74/75, were academically very turbulent, and almost all professors were expelled. From those I can remember, I believe only Cadilhe remained. Professors Pedroso, Seabra, and Baganha, i.e., those I knew best, all of them left.

Also 74/75 was the same year of the School moving to new facilities. In March there was a fire in the attic of the School of Sciences, where our School was. So, our classes were spread through out other schools. When the 25th of April happened the new School building was almost ready.

At the beginning of my third academic year, we inaugurated the new building in Paranhos. Because of the 25th of April, none of the schools of the University of Porto carried out exams. Everyone moved to the next level, the so-called "administrative transition". That year there were no exams for any courses. No one was evaluated, it was a year "for free". It was a very turbulent time, where students themselves along with some teaching assistants, crafted several alternative programmes. As a result, from October 1974 onwards, the programme had changed completely. It included a large number of politically motivated courses, such as Marxist economic theory.

I remember that in my third academic year I didn’t take a single technical course! In spite of my enthusiasm for politics, I never lost sight (I’m very pragmatic) of the fact that three years down the road I would need a means of living and I wouldn’t achieve that with Marxist theory or Marxist economics. I understood that if I finished my studies having learned only those courses, in practical terms that wouldn’t be much. I clearly had a vocation to work in a company, I’ve always enjoyed microeconomics a lot. In spite of being 18 or 19 years old, I had some clarity when it came to choosing the courses, and so I geared more to the technical ones. Why? I’ll explain my thought process a little. During all those summer months of 1974 several endless assemblies took place to draw up the new programme with the teaching assistants left over from the expulsions and students. The programme then started to have a minimum number of two or three compulsory courses annually, with the remainder becoming optional. It was a programme à la carte. There were three hundred plus students and each one picked whatever they felt like. I always chose all accounting related courses and those more associated with management. However, a lot of the students who graduated at the same time as me didn’t have one single accounting related course, general or analytical. That happened because it was possible to do so. The programme was so open that we could do that. In the fifth academic year we only had one compulsory course, which was "Planning". The rest of the programme was our choice. I don’t remember the compulsory courses of the years before. I still remember that "Statistics" was compulsory, but that’s about it. There was a common core of compulsory courses, which dwindled between the third and fifth academic years, but after that it was all optional. And so, some people became Economists without any knowledge of accounting or management, or they have learned it in the meantime… Those three years were very interesting. There was an atmosphere of great political passion. The School was very much on the left, as indeed were all university schools at the time, but ours and the School of Engineering were the two schools of the University of Porto which were downright left, and the opposition was between groups of the far left and UEC. These were exciting times.

And famous colleagues?

Many of them. Among the most known is Elisa (Ferreira) from the same programme, the current Finance Minister, at the time a teaching assistant, the current President of the School of Economics and Management José Costa, and many others who I’d rather not list for fear of leaving others out.

I had a little group. I was very sociable, even though I’d had some trouble integrating. That group consisted mostly of girls, and I still retain those friendships, we still go out for dinner together, but none of them are under the media spotlight.

What did you like the most in your programme?

That it was versatile. We could choose several different solutions. For example, since the beginning Elisa chose macroeconomics related courses, and I took the path of management. The possibility of choice that we had at the time allowed us to pick the programme we wanted from the beginning. This aspect provided the economist with a great variety of professional options upon leaving the School. That’s what I liked the most. I also liked the fact that we made the debut of a School, a new compound, with a very good atmosphere among colleagues, as long as everyone was in sync with the political tendencies. Academic life moved a lot around clusters with similar political tendencies. Now I believe politics is not important… I made good friendships. Very good human relationships. There was no competition among colleagues. We had an atmosphere of mutual help. We had fun and the atmosphere inside the School was also very good.

What did you like the least in your programme?

I didn’t like the hefty courses, which, for example, would have been very useful to the macroeconomists, but were rather useless for those students with a vocation to work in a company. The lack of educational support was bad. Back then we didn’t receive much support material. For some courses the only thing we had were the notes taken during classes. It was unacceptable. It was only later when I was already working that I became accustomed to searching for reference literature. There was a huge gap in the relationship between students and professors, to the point that we were afraid to say anything during classes, especially the girls. It was a very closed society. Often during the exams teachers would ask the girls what they were doing there and why they weren’t at home mending socks! Times were very turbulent after the 25th of April. I hated the grading system by A, B, and C. I was a good student and was picky with grades. It happened at least in one of the academic years that I was stuck with "good" in courses where I had 16 and 17 points. I was furious. There was no academic life, no extracurricular activities, hardly any support at all. The canteen only opened in my last year at the School. There was no incentive to research, it was a completely medieval teaching system. All the students did was go to classes, listen to what the professors had to say and take lots of notes. We spent entire classes just writing. But, in spite of all that, I learned what I needed to and the quality of teaching in classes was always very good.

Based on your experience what advice would you give the new graduates?

Each one of them must set their own path. I believe it is essential to have an idea where we want to go in terms of career, be it capital markets, management, marketing, etc. It is fundamental to have a set propensity and follow it. What I can’t agree with is starting a master’s or postgraduate programme immediately after graduation, unless you’re planning to stay in academia, or continue studying, but if you choose to work you have to access the work market, learn by practising and then yes, go back to studying. When I started to work, I felt I didn’t know much. Everything was new and very unfamiliar.
I started to work at the Bial Laboratories, whose CEO was also very young and had just joined the company as well.
I remember how perplexed I was to see a trial balance the first time I had a look into the accounts, even though I studied all accounting related courses and even though I liked that area of learning a lot.
It was a huge impact, mainly because I was by myself, I didn’t have older and more experienced work colleagues, who I could lean on for assistance. It was trial and error at my own expense. When I moved to BPA it was completely different. There I had older colleagues, and I learned a lot from them. What words do I have for my young colleagues? High focus on the goals they wish to achieve. Professional experience before carrying on with their training after doing field work and having a clear idea about the path they want to follow. To start working in a team is important to learning faster and not to making many mistakes. One of the good things about our programme is the diversity of career prospects and positions that can be held.

Interview conducted by Pedro Quelhas Brito

"The possibility of choice that we had at the time allowed us to pick the programme we wanted from the beginning. This aspect provided the economist with a great variety of professional options upon leaving the School. That’s what I liked the most."