Manuel Zapata came to Charlotte as a political refugee in 1967. In 1991, he founded Zapata Incorporated, an engineering firm that provides engineering and construction services to the Department of Defense and private sector clients worldwide. Zapata, Inc. is a proud major employer or UNC Charlotte alumni, nearly one third of the company's employees hold degrees from the university. Between Manuel, his wife (Karen), and their two sons (Brian and Malcom), the family cumulatively holds nine degrees from UNC Charlotte. Malcom is currently working on his Ph.D. in bioinformatics, and the family is excited to soon have a 10th degree from UNC Charlotte.
The Zapatas are extensively involved with their alma mater. Besides serving on the Board of Advisors for the College of Engineering, in the past, Manuel has also served on the Foundation Board and the Belk College of Business Advisory Board. Karen serves on the Audit Committe of the Foundation Board. Manuel has also been inducted into the University's Alumni Hall of Fame and received the Bonnie E. cone Lifetime Achievement Award. The Zapatas are huge supporters of the University, and have established multiple scholarships, including the Jarvis Zapata Family Opportunity Scholarship, the Jarvis Zapata Family Scholarship, and the Jarvis Zapata Family Gold Rush Scholarship.