Maria Elena Toraño
A widely recognized and accomplished leader and three times presidential appointee, Maria Elena Toraño was the founding president of the National Hispana Leadership Institute in 1987, an organization created to train Hispanic women for national leadership roles.
First sponsored solely by the Coors Brewing Company, NHLI has graduated over 10,000 Latina leaders from the public and private sectors who have been appointed to high posts in government, corporate America, nonprofits, foundations or have started their own businesses. Ms. Toraño was essential in shaping the organization’s mission statement to develop caring leaders and assist those who follow their footsteps.
NHLI has not been the first organization that Ms. Toraño has founded. In 1980, she founded META, a company that provided environmental, management consulting and financial services to Federal, state and international clients. The company was included in Hispanic Business 500 since 1990. Mrs. Toraño, retired as President, Chief Executive Officer and sole owner of META, Inc. in 2000. The company had revenues of $25 million and 300 employees.
Before founding META, Ms. Toraño had a long career in government and the corporate world. She served in the administration of three Presidents – Carter, Bush, and Clinton – an experience that provided her a thorough understanding of, and a unique insight into, the political, socio-economic, cultural, and business environments of this country and many other areas in the world, especially Latin America and Southeast Asia.
In 1979 Ms. Toraño left the Carter Administration to be the founding President of the National Association of Spanish Broadcasters (NASB). The organization represented the interests of Hispanic radio and television broadcasters in the fifty states and Puerto Rico at the FCC and the US Congress. One of NASB’s main accomplishments was to secure the appointment of Henry Rivera, a New Mexico attorney, as the first Commissioner of Hispanic origin at the FCC.
In 1988 Ms. Toraño was appointed by President Bush to the U.S. Commission on Minority Business Development whose mission was to research, study, and make recommendations to the President and to the Small Business Administration on how to increase the success ratio of small minority businesses, and to assess existing business practices such as financing, access to capital, and access to new markets.
In 1989 Ms. Toraño went on to found METEC, an asset management company that managed a portfolio of over $1 billion in non-performing assets for the Resolution Trust Corporation as a result of the savings and loan crisis. Although currently retired the company provides similar services to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
In 1993 she was appointed by President Clinton to the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy where she served for ten years. A presidential appointment which requires the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate, the Commission is responsible for assessing public diplomacy policies and programs for the Department of State. In this capacity, she visited countries in Africa, the Middle East, Western Europe, Latin America, and Canada, promoting a better understanding of U.S. policy and the need for a new diplomacy based on the information age and the growing power of foreign publics resulting from the growth of democratization and free markets.
From 1967 to 1976 Ms. Toraño served as Program Manager, Latin American Affairs for Eastern Airlines, a position that she held from its inception. Created to increase EAL’s share of the U.S. Hispanic market, Eastern became a favored airline in major East Coast cities and among passengers originating in Latin America.
Preparing for retirement, Ms. Toraño increased her involvement with the Council of Foreign Relations, and served in the board of GAP, a community corporation which assists young women who are held in detention centers. She is a founding member of Frito Lay Hispanic Advisory Board advising the corporation on how to become the product of choice, the employer of choice and the partner of choice among Hispanics.
Currently, Ms. Toraño maintains an involvement in U..S-Cuba policy issues, seeking a peaceful resolution to a conflict which dates back to 1960. Ms. Toraño believes that the time has come to explore other alternatives that will ultimately result in securing a democratic system for the island by allowing market forces to influence this process.
Ms. Torano is the mother of two sons and the grandmother of three growing boys. With that consistently male family history there was no doubt that she would function well in what used to be a “Man’s World.”
Adriana Comellas-Macretti is part of the Executive Department at State Farm® Insurance. In her role as a Director she manages State Farm®’s relationship with its Goodwill Ambassador, Julie Sta,v and several Hispanic partner organizations. She also works with the Human Resources, Agency Recruiting and other departments in helping them with their strategies in recruiting, retention, and development of multicultural associates. From 2004 until February 2006, Adriana was part of the Multicultural Business Development Group, where she helped develop strategies and tactics including recruiting bilingual agents and associates. Prior to this role Ms. Comellas-Macretti was a marketing analyst with responsibility in the development of the company’s marketing strategy and tactics for the Hispanic market. She joined State Farm® in March 2000 in Miami, Florida, where she was the Emerging Markets Coordinator for five counties in Florida.
Prior to working for State Farm® Adriana was a banker for 15 years, her last role being Comptroller of Banque Paribas (4th largest bank in France) in Miami-Dade County. Her responsibilities were to oversee all the operational activities of the bank i.e., tellers, accounting, audit, loans, and the bank’s investment portfolio.
Prior to moving to Bloomington, Adriana was appointed by Florida Governor Jeb Bush and served as a Florida Commissioner on Community Service. She also served on the Miami-Dade County Commission on the Status of Women and was a three-term President of the League of Women Voters in Miami-Dade among many other community activities.
In 2005 Adriana became a Board Member of the National Hispana Leadership Institute, after having been selected in 2003 as one of 20 fellows of their fellowship program leading her to attend Harvard University, the Center of Creative Leadership, and the Gallup Institute. Adriana was selected in 2004 as a member of the Leadership Illinois Class. She is an Advisor to the Board, Past Chair and founding member of the Corporate-Hispanic Employee Resource Organization (HERO) one of State Farm®’s Employee Resource Groups. She is also a member of the Senior Executive Corporate Advisory Board for the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC); a Commissioner on the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) National Women's Commission and a member of the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) Business Advisory Council.
Adriana resides in Windermere, Florida with her husband Graciano Macretti.