Friends and family pay tribute to Ronnie Lopez, first recipient of Congressman Ed Pastor Public Servant Leader Award
Family, friends and many whose lives and careers were impacted by longtime community activist and justice of the peace Ronnie Lopez paid tribute at a virtual ceremony organized by the Congressman Ed Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service.
Lopez, who died in August 2020 at 73, was posthumously presented the first-ever edition of an award in the name of Pastor, the late former U.S. representative for whom the center is also named. Lopez and Pastor, who died in 2018, were close friends who grew up in the same copper mining town of Miami, Arizona.
The Congressman Ed Pastor Public Servant Leader Award was presented to Lopez’s wife of 51 years, Angie, at the center’s annual Spirit of Service ceremony, which was held in February. View the entire ceremony here.
Center Executive Director Alberto Olivas said the award will be presented annually to a public policy leader who embodies Pastor’s leadership legacy and style, which emphasized “bridgebuilding, finding common ground, building trust, collaboration and consensus and a selfless dedication to public good.”
Two ASU seniors also were honored at the ceremony as the first-ever Ronnie Lopez Scholars: Betsy Muñoz, a public service and public policy major and Maya Perez, a political science and global studies major and public policy/public service minor. The two are working to increase Latinx voter registration and turnout, Olivas said.
Lopez, who also had served as former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt’s chief of staff, was a constant friend and companion, strategist, spokesman and supporter of many in the world of public policy, Olivas said.
In accepting the award for her late husband, Angie Lopez remembered how he and Pastor first planned what would become the Pastor Center based at ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.
“I remember when Ronnie and the Big Guy – that’s what Ronnie called the congressman – first talked about creating a program that would help young people, especially Latinos, to discover their passion for politics and public service. They wanted to provide resources and information that deepened student understanding of issues they cared about. And they wanted to teach the practical skills to make a difference in their community,” Angie Lopez said.
“I believe the congressman would be incredibly pleased with what you’ve done to make his vision a reality, and I know that Ronnie would be extremely honored to receive such recognition. This award is especially meaningful because the two men shared such a passion for activism, bridge-building and mentoring.”
Lopez said her husband’s success in bringing people together was due to his skill at creating personal connection with others -- no one was a stranger to him.
“He used his natural-born gifts of hospitality and humor to get to know people and understand their issues. Congressman Pastor was the same. They each forged lifelong relationships built on trust and respect, guided by the belief that getting power is one thing, how you use it is another.”
Angie Lopez said that deep in his heart, her husband felt he had “a moral and social responsibility to be a voice for those who had none, a champion for the marginalized among us, and a pathfinder for the leaders of tomorrow. If he were here today – and how I wish he was – he would urge you students to do the same. Ronnie and I would challenge you to be an advocate, a bridgebuilder and a mentor. In other words, be a master of your own destiny and the architect of your own community.”
Yvonne Pastor, the late congressman’s daughter, praised Lopez, a third-generation Arizonan.
“Judge Ronnie Lopez was a lifelong friend and supporter of my father and helped him create the vision for what would become the ASU Congressman Ed Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service,” Yvonne Pastor said. “Beyond serving as the congressman’s friend, indispensable adviser and constant champion, Ronnie was a giant in his own right in Arizona political and business affairs…. Ronnie’s life is a study in advocacy and public service, and he will be greatly missed by all of his friends and ASU, and of course, by my family. I can’t think of a more fitting recipient for the inaugural Congressman Ed Pastor Public Servant Leader Award.”
Watts College Dean Jonathan Koppell mentioned a fact about Lopez’s life that he said should be of particular interest to students.
“Yes, politics is about idealism, it’s about motivation, it’s about commitment to the community, it’s all the things that have been mentioned before, but it’s also serious business, it requires tactical thought to play that game of chess,” Koppell said. “It requires the acquisition and exercise of power. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s how things get done, by building coalitions, by mobilizing people and moving things in a new direction forcefully. And that means playing the game and playing it hard. It doesn’t mean being disagreeable, it doesn’t mean being unfriendly. Obviously, the congressman and Ronnie were two of the most friendly, fun people you’d ever have an opportunity to spend time with. But they were absolutely serious about getting the job done for their communities.”
Paul Luna, president and chief executive officer of the Phoenix-based Helios Education Foundation, said Lopez and Pastor created “a dynamic duo in public service and politics in Arizona.”
“Ronnie had this lifelong commitment to the importance of community service, to public policy and the importance of politics,” Luna said. “He was passionate about insuring that there was diverse community representation in all elected offices. He helped to get many people elected in that commitment to reach that goal.”
Other speakers included Ed Pastor’s wife, Verma, and Joe Anderson, co-founder of Phoenix-based managed healthcare plan Schaller Anderson.
Those in attendance were asked to record a brief recollection and tribute about Lopez and several did. Here are a few examples:
- “Ronnie was my chief of staff with Gov. Babbitt and we spent many hours together at the Capitol on (Babbitt’s) presidential campaign and in his home… God bless the Pastor and Lopez famil(ies).” – Vada Manager, Helios Education Foundation
- “Thank you for a lovely tribute to Ronnie Lopez, who did so much for the state of Arizona, for expanding opportunity for Arizonans, and as a dear friend to so many.” – Fred DuVal, Arizona Board of Regents
- “Beautiful tribute and touching words honoring such deserving individuals, Congressman Ed Pastor, Ronnie Lopez. We owe a lot to their vision, leadership, mentorship and friendship.” – Elisa de la Vara, Arizona Community Foundation
- “Thank you to the Pastor Center and all the panelists for reminding us that we must carry the legacy of Congressman Pastor and the Honorable Ronnie Lopez, our chairman.” – Miguel Bravo, Arizona Public Service
Photo: U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Ariz. (left), and Ronnie Lopez in an undated photo. Courtesy of Angie Lopez
Mark J. Scarp is media relations officer for the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.