Juan Jose Hermosilla ’57 has spent his professional career working to keep his native Guatemala safe. Shortly after earning his degree in civil engineering, Hermosilla founded an engineering firm that designed buildings able to withstand earthquakes. In the nearly six decades that followed, Hermosilla designed, built, and performed structural analysis on more than 150 of Guatemala’s largest buildings, including the United States Embassy in Guatemala City—which withstood a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in 1976.
Hermosilla recently embarked on an endeavor very different from civil engineering, but still devoted to protecting Guatemala. Earlier in 2016, he established the Fundaciòn Ingeniero Juan Jose Hermosilla Montano, a charity dedicated to helping malnourished and severely burned children in underserved areas of Guatemala.
“Guatemala is going through a historical crisis of food shortage,” Hermosilla says. “And more and more children are facing the consequences of severe burns. We established the foundation to combat these problems.”
The foundation has already provided financial assistance to more than 40 orphans diagnosed with HIV in Santa Maria de Jesus, a town in the central highlands city of Antigua with one of the country’s highest rates of child malnutrition.
“Underprivileged children often have no chance because of their lack of resources,” Hermosilla says. “We want to help the people of Guatemala who suffer from famine, and create child nutrition and food sustainability programs in their areas.”
The foundation has also established a partnership with Boston’s Shriners Hospital for Children that would allow severely burned children to travel to Boston for treatment.
“The treatment of burns is a very specialized job,” he says. “And children in rural area have very little access to help. This alliance allows us to document and send information to Shriners in hopes that the children can receive medical support.”
Although Hermosilla graduated from MIT nearly 60 years ago, he is still well-known to many in MIT athletics. He placed second nationally in the 1956 squash intercollegiate championship and his name adorns MIT’s wall of accomplishments in the Zesigner Center. In 2006, he was named the greatest squash player in Institute history by MIT DAPER.
He is equally well-known in Guatemala, where he was named the country’s best in athlete in 1961 by the Sports Writers Association of Guatemala after winning the national championship in squash, golf, tennis, table tennis, and bowling. But athletics and engineering aside, he hopes his lasting contribution to his country can be through his foundation.
“Establishing a charity doesn’t depend on your profession,” Hermosilla says. “It depends on the love you feel for those in need. My only motivation is to help my Guatemalan brothers and sisters who feel hopeless.”