Eduardo Beato Fowler came from Cuba to attend Lehigh in 1904 with the goal of becoming the chief engineer of the railroad system in his country. There were ties between the Bethlehem Steel Corporation and Lehigh, so a lot of Cubans came to attend school here at that time.
After building and sketching elaborate models of railroads throughout his time at Lehigh, Fowler went on to far surpass his dream. In the early years of his engineering career back in Cuba, he was involved in building two important Cuban harbors, Havana Harbor and the Santiago de Cuba Harbor. Later, as chief engineer of Havana, he and an associate engineer designed and built all of the bridges on the Carretera Central, the highway that runs the entire length of the island of Cuba.
President Gerardo Machado appointed Fowler chief engineer of Havana, which put him in charge of all government engineering. Major projects included Malecon in Havana Harbor that is a recognized landmark, the completion of the Cuban capitol building, the upscale residential districts of 23rd and 5th Avenues in Havana near the famous Hotel Nacional, and the Avenida del Prado, which is the commercial center of Havana.
Eduardo also developed two popular residential areas in the Cuban cities of Havana, El Nautico and Orfila. These developments incorporated the unique American-influenced architecture he was exposed to while at Lehigh verses the traditional Spanish/colonial architecture. Just before the collapse of Machado's government, he was in the process of redesigning the complete waterworks, sewer, and aqueduct systems in Havana. When Machado's government was overthrown, Fowler retired and the project was shelved.
Keeping His Legacy Alive
As 90-year-old Fowler lay dying, his grandson, Fernando Beato, promised him he would make the family name known in the United States. Overflowing with pride for the man who not only raised him, but also instilled in him a strong work ethic and the values of honesty, integrity and respect for country and other people, Fernando (Fred) Beato kept his promise. Just as his grandfather had done in Cuba, Beato succeeded in spreading the Beato name across the country, and he made a special place for it here, at Lehigh. Every bag and cover for drums and percussion instruments at Lehigh bears the name Beato, and the orchestra bags send a special message: "Eduardo Beato Fowler, Alumnus, Class of 1908."
Beato started Beato, Inc., now an international company that manufactures bags and covers for drums and percussion instruments, 15 years ago. Well known in the music business, Beato bags cover many instruments in the United States and overseas.
In 2000, Beato traveled from California to Bethlehem to take in the ambiance of the place where his grandfather once lived and studied. During his visit, he was inspired to find a way to pay tribute to the man who raised him. He knew that if his grandfather had been able, he would have come back to Lehigh to find a way to share with future generations of Lehigh students how the education earned here can make a difference in their life and in the lives of others.
When asked how Lehigh could thank him for his generous in-kind gifts, Beato responded, "If there's any way you can put a plaque on a wall in honor of my grandfather, it would be incredible." So that's exactly what the university did. To thank Beato for his generous donation, Gregory Farrington, former Lehigh president, presented him with a plaque that now hangs in the Alumni Memorial Building in honor of Eduardo Beato Fowler.