Our Farewell to Juan Manuel Peña (Lic&MBA ’71), President of the Esade Alumni Senior Club

January 28, 2021 3:42 pm

We are deeply saddened to share the news that Juan Manuel Peña (Lic&MBA ’71) passed away on 14th January after contracting the coronavirus. Juan Manuel dedicated his lengthy professional career to the health sector. As the first president of the Senior Club, he brought to life the idea of creating a club for senior alumni. He threw himself into this endeavour with all the passion and joy he was always known for. Below, his colleagues share their remembrances.

Members of the Lic&MBA ‘71 graduating class

“Juan Manuel (1949-2021) was the eldest of seven children. His parents – an Argentinian and a woman from Navarre – settled in Malgrat sometime before 1950. His father was a veterinarian, well known and well liked in the area. His mother had her hands full looking after the large family.

He finished high school at La Salle Bonanova and was a brilliant student. He earned his bachelor’s degree as a member of Esade’s eighth graduating class (1966-1971). He married Gloria Sala in 1975 and had two children, Arantxa and Iñaki. His professional history was always linked to the health sector: manager of the General Hospital of Granollers; head of the international sector at Iberhospitalia, a hospital design firm that allowed him to make friends all over the world; managing partner at Intersalus. He later worked as an executive at the Catalan Hospital Consortium, before providing consulting services to various architectural firms specialising in hospitals.

He was a person of great renown in the health sector: at the time of his death, he was working on the introduction of 3D printing technology in medical settings (Juan Manuel’s acquaintances in this world would open up their doors to you as if you were an old friend). He was a natural at establishing and maintaining fluid, long-lasting human relationships, and he was always able and willing to help anyone out.
As for Juan Manuel’s collaborative track record, in 1985 he was a member of the ALCE Board of Directors.

He was the foreign affairs delegate of the eighth graduating class and his involvement in creating the Foreign Affairs Senior Group, which he chairs, was legendary. His participation in the Health and Pharma Group is also well known.

He was a creative, imaginative person who was able to get different sorts of people on board to collaborate on projects. Juan Manuel’s death is mourned even by people far outside his most direct circle of contacts.

He was always in good spirits, quick to make you smile with a joke or witty comment.

We will always remember him with affection and admiration.”

In the photo, the members of the Esade Alumni Senior Club Board 

Eugenia Bieto (Lic&MBA 73), Vice President of the Esade Alumni Senior Club

“At the 2018 Esade Alumni Annual Conference, Juan Manuel Peña, accompanied by Javier Armenter (Lic&MBA 74) , invited me to join the Senior Club, an initiative that he had recently got up and running. Juan Manuel was very clear that we, the alumni of Esade’s first graduating classes, needed a platform where we could share our concerns and reflect on our new stage of life and – why not? – on our careers.

As the driving force behind the club, he worked until the very end to give a voice to Esade’s seniors. From the hospital where he was admitted for COVID-19, he kept sending messages to the Executive Board. He left us a legacy and we will do our best to make his project grow.”

Lluïsa Vila (Lic&MBA 75), Secretary of the Esade Alumni Senior Club

“Thank you, Juan Manuel, for your positive energy. You had an idea and you brought it to life. That’s how the Esade Alumni Senior Club came into being. You surrounded yourself with a team – our board – and pushed us forward, like a true leader.

Thank you for tapping into our strengths and believing in each one of us. You gave shape to the club and it became well known both inside and outside of Esade.

Thank you for constantly organising events and fighting relentlessly for the satisfaction surveys (I think you even had dreams about Survey Monkey). You believed in holding sessions where we could reflect on what it means to be a senior, to elicit interesting content…

Thank you for pursuing contacts and partnerships with other organisations. Thank you for participating in everything Esade and Esade Alumni suggested.

Above all, thank you for believing in the need to meet for a casual dinner at least once a year, if not twice, with the aim of uniting the board as a team. Not even the pandemic could stand in your way in 2020, since for you this was absolutely essential. You even invited Patricia Valentí, who was recently appointed director of Esade Alumni… What a treat!

Rest assured, your project will not be left unfinished.

Farewell, Mr. President!”

José Manuel Casasnovas (Lic&MBA 75), Esade Alumni Senior Club Executive Board Member

“On several occasions I had the opportunity to spend time alone with Juan Manuel while visiting potential sponsors for the Senior Club. I remember those times fondly yet bittersweetly, knowing that, incomprehensibly, he is no longer with us. His approach always followed the same methodology. He would ring a friend/acquaintance to set up a meeting – coffee with both of us at a nearby bar. We’d meet there 15 minutes ahead of time to go over our goals and agree on our sales pitch (who would say what and when). After the meeting, we would have another round of coffee to debrief and discuss our next steps.

My career has been in the world of sales. Juan Manuel was a great salesman: he developed all his qualities impeccably and relentlessly. Working with him was a guarantee of success. In addition, he was always willing to help out in any way he could. On one occasion, we talked about a friend of my children – an architect – who was unemployed. Shortly thereafter, he helped her get a job in a studio owned by some architects he knew. That’s how he was. He was both calm and kind, a man of action, a man of enterprise. His memory will live on inside us, helping us run the Senior Club.”

Lluís Farràs (EDIEF 92), Esade Alumni Senior Club Executive Board Member

“This is a huge loss for everyone who knew him, and especially for those of us who had the pleasure and honour of having him as president of the Senior Club. He was the one who led the creation of the club. He left an indelible mark not only in the club, but also at Esade. To his family, I sent my sincerest condolences in their time of mourning. He is gone, but his legacy will live on.”

Rodrigo Rama (GH 86/ MBA 89), President of the Esade Alumni Health and Pharma Club (on behalf of the entire Executive Board)

“Farewell, Joan Peña!
The death of Juan Manuel Peña, whom we always called Joan, on 14th January, was not just another anonymous death to add to the long, mournful list left by COVID-19. His death has impacted us terribly. The enormous void he leaves behind is already being felt.

Joan was a mainstay of the Health and Pharma Club for many years. As a board member, he stood out for his enthusiastic participation, great drive, perseverance, solidarity, and extensive knowledge of health and dependency management and health care real estate. His character was cheerful, joking and occasionally sardonic, which made Joan a young man of 71. His clever sense of humour was his personal trademark.

Joan was very active in the group chat of the Health and Pharma Club board. His intellectual curiosity was boundless and he would always share interesting reading material. He often made us smile with humorous comments and sharp jokes.

That same chat group has recently been flooded with messages of disbelief, sadness and desolation as his colleagues and friends in the club struggle to make sense of his death. But we have also shared happy memories of Joan at his vibrant best:

What a nice guy he was! So cheerful!

It’s such a shame… How unfair.

We will all miss his great vitality.

I’m absolutely crushed to hear this. I have no words.

I can’t believe it. This virus is devastating, I can’t take it anymore. Rest in peace, Joan, and my condolences to your family. Your sympathy, initiative and energy will always be with us.

I am in shock at this news. Rest in peace, Joan Manel. Our thoughts are with your family. I hope one day we will meet again and I can pay you the tribute you deserve.

I am heartbroken, I can’t believe it.

What sad news. He was a great person. I can’t bring myself to believe it.

I woke up this morning and I still couldn’t believe it.

It’s so hard to mourn the death of someone you appreciated but didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to… If only we could have been with him during his illness…

A big hug to all of you. Joan is the first person I know who has died of COVID-19 and I’m taking it very hard.

I will always remember him with a smile on his face.

Death is a part of life, there is no doubt. But those of us who have dedicated our careers to health – to people – we always believe that the grim reaper can be beaten with prevention and treatments. For a group like ours, something so definitive, especially when it cuts short a full and useful life like our dear Joan’s, is intellectually and emotionally unacceptable. Right now, with vaccines just around the corner, the pain I feel is compounded by the fact that he died of COVID-19. My heart is full of rage.

Later, Joan’s wife Gloria joined the chat. We shared our feelings with her and tried to provide support in her time of great loss.

On behalf of all of Joan’s colleagues and friends on the Health and Pharma Club Executive Board, I would like to express the profound sorrow we feel. We will keep our dear friend in our hearts and in our thoughts.”