Rashid Cruz/CDF

Doña Pili's Legacy

26 Years of Commitment and Wisdom at the CDF. Celebrating our colleague Doña Pili as she heads off on retirement.

Leslie León
30 Apr 24 /

Doña Pili's Legacy: 26 Years of Commitment and Wisdom at the Charles Darwin Foundation

With a noble and transparent heart, Pilar Díaz, affectionately known as Doña Pili, has been a fundamental pillar of the Charles Darwin Foundation since 1998. She joined the Charles Darwin Research Station in April that year as an Auxiliary Accountant and quickly demonstrated skills that transcended her position, rising to Accounting Assistant in the original 5-person team. Her knowledge and professionalism led her to become Project Manager and finally Financial Coordinator in 2015, a position she has held to this day.

When talking to her, her wisdom and unwavering faith are perceived, which have guided her during these 26 years with total transparency and responsibility. Her presence conveys peace and confidence, qualities that her colleagues emphasize. For years, she has mentored new hires, earning the respect and admiration of everyone at CDF. Her kindness and willingness to help are recognized by all.

Doña Pili and her work team in 2014

But how did the nickname "Doña Pili" arise? Pilar recalls that when she joined CDRS in 1998 as Pilar Barrera (after her husband), her boss corrected her, reminding her that her last name was Díaz. Amidst laughter and discussion, Robert Bensted-Smith, the Executive Director, intervened and nicknamed her "Doña Pili". Since then, this affectionate name has identified her.

There are countless stories that Doña Pili has accumulated over the past 26 years, and when asked about any of them, her eyes fill with nostalgia at the thought of leaving her work family behind. Today, she bids farewell to the CDF family with her duty fulfilled and through the front door, although her departure leaves a void, we know that her legacy will live on.

Andrea Táez/CDF
Doña Pili, enjoying the CDF Open House together with the shark-ambassadors.
Andrea Táez/CDF
Darwin Expedition 2018

This blog is a tribute to her dedication to this NGO, which she considers her second family. In her honor, we have collected messages from her loved ones and are sharing photos that will surely touch our dear Pilar Díaz.

Message from Charlotte Causton (Principal Investigator):

Longtime friend, as well as partner in projects with many administrative challenges, and a great companion in integration activities.

Always ready with a smile to listen and look for ways to solve problems so that we can move forward. Your support and guidance and the help of everyone in accounting has been key to the success of our projects and, in recent years, to the protection of the small birds of Galapagos.

We will miss your smiling face at the station, and hope you will come visit us regularly. Enjoy your time with your family and enjoy having time to yourself!

Charlotte Causton/CDF
CDF Integration Morning (2005)

Message from Julio Delgado (Operations Coordinator):

Doña Pili is like a mother to me. When I started at the CDF, she always had time to listen to a young man who neither added nor subtracted in her day-to-day life. During my progress in different areas, she knew how to guide me and teach me both in the work field and also in life advice, many of the processes that I now know very well, were taught by her.

The Foundation loses a wonderful person and although she requested her retirement, we lose a great person in both professional and personal fields.

Message from Birgit Fessl (Principal Investigator):

Often, when I was worried about how to make a payment at the last minute, Doña Pili would tell me: don't worry, my friend. You do your job and what is necessary to protect these little birds, and I will do my job and find a way to make the administrative part work.

And every time I have gone into her office to ask her for something, she has said to me: "Hola, amiguita! How are you? How are the children? And the birds? Are you taking good care of them? We will certainly miss Doña Pili.

Message from María José Barragán (Science Director):

“Since my arrival at the CDF almost seven years ago, Doña Pili has always been an invaluable human being, professional, colleague and friend. Attentive to details in a world of codes and accounts (...numbers that she has mastered by heart, a skill that I have always admired), her good spirit has accompanied us in our day-to-day work and also in matters outside the work environment. I am very grateful to Doña Pili for her patience and support in our work in the science area and throughout the CDF. Thanks to people like Doña Pili, the CDF is not only a prestigious scientific institution but also a big family. Good luck with your new phase, my dear Doña Pili!”

Charlotte Causton/CDF
CDF Olympics 2018
C. Loayza
Accounting Department (2005)

Message from Phil van Haarlem (CFO):

I have had the great honor and pleasure of working for almost ten years with Doña Pilar as Financial Coordinator. She was a true financial and administrative treasure for the Foundation. She was ultra-professional in everything, intelligent and efficient worker, both in Spanish and English. Not all of these ten years were easy for the Foundation but, her organizational knowledge and great sense of humor helped a lot in removing obstacles. Her work was always of high quality and I remember well the key and intelligent roll in the annual budget process. Notwithstanding the medical problems she has had over the years she was always available for any consultation.

I will not forget this magnificent lady and wish her a well deserved rest in her retirement.

Message from Fernando Araujo (Director of Finance):

It has been wonderful to meet Doña Pili. She is a soul that illuminates the lives of many people and in my case has been no exception. Her kindness and generosity is undoubtedly something that sets her apart, thank you for giving me so much love, for your teachings and for not being selfish in the least.

In these few months that we have known each other I have been able to see how much love she has put into her work, but undoubtedly her professionalism has marked our beloved Foundation. Now she leaves a very well-established foundation so that the department that she directed for many years will know how to work with the same determination and excellence that she has transmitted to us.

I wish her good health and blessings in this new stage of her life, and I hope she can enjoy her family, herself and her passion -preaching-.

In me she will always have a person who admires her very much and will be with an open heart whenever she needs me. CDF is her home and the doors will always be open whenever she wants to visit us. This is just a see you later, because I am sure we will be in constant communication.

Carlos Espinosa/CDF
Doña Pili with Fernando Araujo, Chief Financial Officer (2024))

Message from Andrea Táez (Accounting Assistant):

Working with Doña Pili has been a great experience. I appreciate her advice, personal and professional anecdotes, we admire the years she has given to this institution. I wish her every success, and now it is time to write a new chapter in her life, together with her family.

Message from Lilia Cunalata (General Accountant):

Working with Doña Pili has been a great experience. I appreciate her words and advice both personally and professionally, it is worthy of admiration for all the years she has given to the CDF. I wish her the best and much success.

Message from Andrea Espín (Accounting Assistant):

We are very happy and grateful for her time given to the institution, her teachings and companionship. We know that she is full of inspirations and projects with her family.

It is not a goodbye, it's a see you later. All the best.

Message from Viviana Caiza (Treasurer):

During these seven years that I have been working at the CDF, she has been able to give me her wise advice, I have always seen her with great respect and admiration, and she has taught me how to develop my work efficiently. I know that all her demands have been for my own benefit and for the good of the company's objectives. I wish her the best.

Message from Heinke Jäger (Principal Investigator):
I arrived at the CDF three months before Doña Pilar and I remember well the smile with which she greeted me the first time and the questions she asked me about my work. She has always been concerned for the scientists' well-being and always asked how the work was going, no matter how little time she had. She is the only person who can tell me "Don't be mean" without bothering me....
What I admire most about Doña Pilar is the calm she maintains in difficult situations and the practical solutions she provides to any problem. I will miss the shouts around the station: "Saludos a mi Jon" and the affectionate and sincere hugs. I will always carry Doña Pilar's smile and laughter in my heart.

Cristina Loayza
CDF staff 2005

Message from Johanna Carrión (Interinstitutional Affairs Director):

Working with Doña Pili has been an honor. Her love for every CDF project has always been admirable to me. She has always looked for ways to give all the support so that research activities do not stop despite economic, logistical or administrative challenges. We will certainly miss Doña Pili with all her knowledge and institutional memory. We wish her and her beautiful family all the best.

Message from the Communications and Marketing team:

No matter how much or little we have known Doña Pili, with the first contact we could realize her kindness and transparency. Thank you for giving us 26 years of professionalism and friendship. Enjoy your new stage and remember that CDF will always be your second home.

Johanna Carrión/CDF
Doña Pili with Johanna, Julio and Mauricio at the former Biomar facilities (2019).
Rashid Cruz/CDF
Part of the Communication and Marketing team together with Doña Pili

Message from Robert Bensted- Smith:

Dear Doña Pili (what a distinguished name!), from the first day in 1998 to the last you were part of the heart of the Foundation - and in the hearts of your colleagues as well, as many have already said. With your professional knowledge and the values you live every day, you have made an enormous contribution, both to the conservation of nature and to the happiness of the people around you. And you will continue to do so, no doubt, even if it is outside the daily life of the Station. Big hugs and see you soon!

Rob Bensted-Smith (Director of the Charles Darwin Research Station when Doña Pili joined in 1998)

Carlos Espinosa/CDF
Financial Management Team at Doña Pili's farewell party (2024))
Rashid Cruz/CDF
Doña Pili working in times of pandemic (2021)

And so, with a beautiful smile and mixed feelings, Doña Pili bids farewell to her beloved CDF. The place she calls home.

“I loved working here because this foundation strives to preserve God's creation and so I was always happy working with all of you. In this place we spent nice moments, also difficult times but we always made it through together as a great team, a big family “.

Pilar Díaz

Carlos Espinosa/CDF
Our dear Doña Pili

Leslie León

Communications Officer

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Andres Cruz

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