In 1959, scholar, educator, and entrepreneur Manuel F. Ayau founded the Center for Economic and Social Sciences (CEES), a classical liberal think tank which eventually led to the establishment of Universidad Francisco Marroquín, in 1971. He was also actively involved in a project to promote government reform known as ProReforma. Until his death, Dr. Ayau was president emeritus of UFM.
Manuel F. Ayau was actively involved in the formation of the National Securities Exchange and the Guatemalan Chamber of Industry. His business interests included cotton and rice cultivation and he established the largest factory of ceramic tiles in Central America.
He was president of such organizations as the Mont Pelerin Society, which was founded by Friedrich A. Hayek and whose members include numerous Nobel Prize winners. He was also the director of Liberty Fund in Indianapolis and a board member of the Foundation for Economic Education in New York.
Ayau was the author of several Spanish-language books: El proceso económico; Cómo mejorar el nivel de vida; De Robinson a Viernes; La década perdida; No tenemos que seguir siendo pobres para siempre; and El comercio. He also wrote both English and Spanish editions of Not a Zero-Sum Game. For many years he had weekly columns in local newspapers and his articles have been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Freeman and other well-known publications.
Ayau earned a BS in mechanical engineering from Louisiana State University and was a member of the Honorary Engineering Society Tau Beta Pi. He also received honorary degrees from Hillsdale College and Northwood University. He was named an LSU Distinguished Alumni and received the Founders Award from the Foundation for Economic Education. In 2005, the Association of Private Enterprise Education gave him the Adam Smith Award. In 2008, he received the Juan de Mariana Award from the Juan de Mariana Institute in Madrid. He was honored by the Guatemalan Chamber of Journalists, elected Distinguished Member of the Philadelphia Society, and included among the Freedom Champions of the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. In June 2008, the Los Angeles Times published a report on UFM and the work of Manuel Ayau.
He served two terms on the Guatemalan Monetary Board, was a congressional delegate, and ran as candidate for president and vice-president of Guatemala.