For many alumni, Fordham is where they got interested in one subject or another and uncovered a specific career path, but for Javier Lamoso, it’s where he discovered something more fundamental: a passion for lifelong learning and a desire to conquer his next big thing. Whether that’s becoming a lawyer, managing a venture capital fund, or launching a hydroponic farming operation, his adult life has been about embracing change and taking on new challenges. And thanks to Fordham, he says, he’s always game.

“Fordham made me enjoy and pursue continuing education,” he said. “That’s probably why I have done so many different things, and I have changed every five years—not because I didn’t enjoy what I was doing [but because I wondered,]  ‘Now, what else can we learn? What new thing can we do?’ The lasting experience is that passion for learning—to continue learning.”

Drawing Some Inspiration from ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’

Born in the Bronx not far from Fordham, Lamoso moved with his family to their native Puerto Rico when he was a toddler. Though the 1986 Fordham College at Rose Hill graduate doesn’t “remember anything about New York as a kid,” the city lured him back for college.

“It was clear to me and my parents that Frank Sinatra was right: If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere,” he said, referencing the singer’s 1979 hit about New York City, “Theme from New York, New York.”

Continuing the Catholic education he received in Puerto Rico, Lamoso enrolled at Fordham to study political science and economics. He had a grand plan to take what’s now known as a gap year, trekking through Spain with his friends, before ultimately returning to New York to attend law school.

That didn’t quite work out, and he went “from having it all figured out” to facing a year “with nowhere to go, no school applied to or anything.” As he’s done many times since, Lamoso made a new plan: He landed an internship at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, a white-shoe law firm based in the city, thanks to his educational background, Spanish proficiency, and Fordham connections—the hiring partner was a fellow Fordham graduate.

Creating Opportunity, New Business Ventures on the Island

After the internship, Lamoso returned to Puerto Rico to study law at the University of Puerto Rico, earning a J.D. in 1990. He’s displayed an entrepreneurial spirit throughout his career since: he’s practiced law, managed a venture capital fund, and launched various communications ventures.

In 2017, as he was contemplating his next career step, his mother was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. It got him thinking not just about his own health and path but also about the health prospects of Puerto Rico as a whole.

“My friend at Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center was head of the colorectal division, and he asked me to send him pictures of my mother’s fridge and her food cabinet,” Lamoso said. “He sent it back to me with circles and said, ‘This is the reason. This is why.’”

His friend had circled all of the packaged, processed, microwaveable food his mother had been eating, having ceased cooking fresh, homemade meals after Lamoso’s father died 15 years earlier.

Lamoso became a pescatarian and started to examine the island’s food landscape: More than 80% of Puerto Rico’s food is imported, he said, including more than 95% of its greens. Thinking of his grandfather and great-grandfather, who were coffee farmers, he decided to return to his family’s roots. He launched Explora Greens, a 60,000-square-foot hydroponic farming operation in Isabela, about two hours away from San Juan.

Just as it was getting off the ground and Lamoso was preparing to open a new greenhouse, Hurricane Maria hit, delaying his expansion plans for a few months but underscoring the need for greater self-sufficiency and a stronger local food system on the island.

Improving Fresh Food Access

Fast forward five years, and Lamoso’s farm is up and running. Explore Greens produces a leafy, Dutch lettuce in the butterhead lettuce family, and romaine, which they distribute to more than 80 supermarkets on the island.

“I saw that we have a food safety issue, and it became amazingly obvious after Hurricane Maria,” he said. “When it comes to greens, we import over 1,200 containers—just in one food stuff, one of the line items in the supermarket.” He shared his hope that his company can help bring down that number. “If I can import-substitute at least 20 containers a year, I’ll be happy.”

Today, Lamoso has his hands in every facet of farm operation. Unlike the romantic notion his lawyer friends and many others have of running a farm, Lamoso said he does everything—from accounting and marketing to waking up at 4 a.m. to help harvest and package the greens—because “the farm doesn’t take care of itself.”

Fostering Fordham Ties

Amid all his entrepreneurial ventures, one thing has stayed constant: Lamoso is deeply tied to Fordham and committed to helping more students from Puerto Rico find a home at the Jesuit University of New York.

As a longtime member of the Alumni Chapter of Puerto Rico, Lamoso said he’s worked closely with Joseph M. McShane, S.J., Fordham’s outgoing president, to expose students on the island to the University.

Lamoso has done his part, too. He “started making calls” to prospective students and even met with them and encouraged them to apply to Fordham. As word spread that his was “the Fordham family,” he said he took it upon himself to interview and recommend even more students, with some help from his own children, who would spread the word among their friends, their friends’ siblings and relatives, classmates, and others.

As Fordham welcomes its new president, Tania Tetlow, J.D., next month, Lamoso said he’s hopeful the University can keep the momentum going in Puerto Rico.

“I actually feel very optimistic: I think that our new president can do it, can transmit that” excitement, he said.

Fordham Five (Plus One)

What are you most passionate about?
Learning experiences. I despise stagnation.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
At Fordham, I learned that the best advice actually comes from the dead—I mean books. Seneca, a Roman Stoic philosopher, keeps “instructing me” not to suffer in my imagination. Over the years, I have become better at this, but I still have work to do.

What’s your favorite place in New York City? In the world?
McSorley’s in the East Village. There is something about a beer house that has survived so much, especially the fads and taste of young generations in these fast-fashion times.

In the world, I have to say Laos because of the innocence kept by its people despite what the rest of the world has made them endure.

Name a book that has had a lasting influence on you.
Well, I am an avid reader, so you are going to have to allow me to mention more than one book.

The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm: A copy of it was given to me during Senior Week at Fordham by a retired Jesuit that had taught in Colegio San Ignacio in San Juan and was fond of Puerto Rico.

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. My three colleagues in the [internship at the law firm] were so smart they made my head hurt. They got me into Dostoyevsky. I must be one of the few persons that misses having to ride the subway for an hour in the morning so I could read Russian literature.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl has … actually helped me take business risk and have the courage to embrace the changes that have allowed me to learn and grow.

Who is the Fordham grad or professor you admire most?
Father McShane, who I met after his first year as president. Both of my children are big fans of him, too, since they have known him since they were in kindergarten. Father McShane navigated Fordham through such difficult times and through so many challenges in the first part of the 21st century, such as lower government funding and aid, higher operating costs, increased competition for students, recruiting and retaining professors, a transformation to digital learning, and of course a pandemic. And he did it with an ace fighter pilot finesse that made it look so easy.

What are you optimistic about?
Now, I believe my children will live their mature lives in a democracy. I was afraid of the contrary until not long ago. I am also optimistic about Fordham, and in the long run I am even optimistic about climate change.