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University of Missouri

No Accounting for Hard Work

From immigrant to company president, José Gutiérrez has made the most of America.

José Gutiérrez

José Gutiérrez, a tri-chair for the National Campaign Cabinet, credits his Mizzou education as the springboard for a successful career. Photo courtesy of José Gutiérrez.

If you want a free cup of coffee and a conversation, tell José Gutiérrez there’s no opportunity left in America.

Gutiérrez, BS Acc ’84, M Acc ’85, grew up in a Madrid family of humble means. He came to MU in 1982, barely speaking English. “I know for a fact I wasn’t the smartest guy at Mizzou,” Gutiérrez says. “But I don’t know if anyone worked harder than me.”

With limited English, most class lectures escaped his understanding. To catch up, he spent extra time with his textbooks, which, because they were written in English, he read slowly. But his professors nurtured him; he felt the university was invested in him, and after a lot of effort, he graduated summa cum laude.

By 1991, he took a job in the merger and acquisition department at Southwestern Bell in St. Louis. A string of mergers and acquisitions culminated with the 2005 purchase of AT&T. In 2006, Gutiérrez was named president and CEO of the now-subsidiary Southwestern Bell, 15 years after he started at the company.

“I’m the luckiest guy alive,” says Gutiérrez, as if still trying to understand it.

Gutiérrez is now president of Wholesale Solutions, a multi-billion-dollar business owned by AT&T that provides voice, mobility, data and applications services to telecom carriers worldwide. As an MU graduate, he is an alumni adviser to the Trulaske College of Business and the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

At 51, Gutiérrez enjoys seeing his children doing well. Elena, 22, is a student at the University of Texas, and Charles, 20, is at Mizzou, working toward his own accounting degree.

Gutiérrez remembers a moment about 10 years ago, walking past Lowry Mall after a football game. His quiet, 10-year-old son said, “ ‘You know dad, someday I’m going to be walking through this campus and be thinking, “This is where it all started for my dad.” ’

“I was blown away,” he says.