Phil Lopez speaking against payscale increases for vice-presidents, March 2012
  • Phil Lopez speaking against payscale increases for vice-presidents, March 2012
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Friday, December 14, on the eve of his 65th birthday, on the last day of the fall semester, Southwestern College English professor Philip Lopez suffered a heart attack and died.

Many people consider Lopez an institution unto himself at the campus; he began teaching English as an adjunct instructor in 1973. As an English professor in a program called the Puente Project, he inspired students who often came from households where no family member held a college degree to pursue higher education.

Lopez was a staunch union member and on Friday had completed a long day of negotiations. He had been a political activist all of his adult life.

His broad outlook on the world was colored by his life experiences. He was bilingual. With his former wife Kathleen Canny Lopez, he taught one year in Shanghai, China, and resided another year in Venezuela.

More recently, Lopez made San Diego headlines when he was suspended from Southwestern. In October 2009, Lopez and three other Southwestern professors — Andrew Rempt, Dinorah Guadiana-Costa, and Janet Mazzarella — were furloughed for their alleged involvement with a student protest. Students were demonstrating against the college’s proposed course cuts for the spring semester. The case evolved into a successful fight for freedom of speech on campus.

At the time of the suspension, Raj Chopra was the superintendent of the college and Nicholas Alioto was the vice president of business and finances. Chopra and Alioto resigned within months of the incident. Subsequently, Alioto has been charged by the San Diego district attorney’s office with several felonies and a misdemeanor.

Besides being a renowned fisherman (by his own account), Lopez was also a musician and writer. He had been looking forward to more leisure time when he planned to write a history of the campus and the decades-long struggle against corruption.

At a memorial gathering on December 15, a commonly reiterated compliment was that Lopez could hold his own in any argument, but never held a grudge.

Video of Lopez in 2009:

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johng Dec. 17, 2012 @ 6:02 p.m.

I follow the trials and tribulations of the South County education monopoly rather like watching a soap opera or a train wreck. Its an absolute joke that the members of the Sweetwater and Southwestern boards keep getting reelected. The citizens/voters? of those two districts should mourn the passing of this man and be happy that they have another union leader, Alex Anguiano, of great caliber who is currently President of the SEA. The murky way that both of these districts are run makes operation of ENRON look reasonable.


anniej Dec. 29, 2012 @ 7:15 p.m.

johng: Mr. Anguiano is indeed a man of integrity.

it appears that all of the board members in 2007 and the superintendent have now been indicted. i am indeed surprised that Bertha Lopez was included - she did after all go to the authorities with concerns early on. no doubt the indictments of the new group will be made public next week.

our only hope for real news has been the reporting of Ms. Luzzaro. she and The Reader thankfully have remained all about reporting the facts. the ut, for whatever reason, has gone mute on the issue of Sweetwater.


cvres Dec. 17, 2012 @ 7:01 p.m.

I wish he would have written that history of Southwestern. It would have numbered among his many contributions to the community.


erupting Dec. 18, 2012 @ 10:18 a.m.

People of his character will truly be missed.


oskidoll Dec. 18, 2012 @ 11:26 a.m.

johng: please do be aware that the voters did vote for a new day for Southwestern in 2010 when they elected Norma Hernandez and Tim Nader to the Southwestern College Board. That Board is now on a much better trajectory, especially without the shady likes of former member Yolanda Salcido. The evil Raj Chopra and corrupt Alioto were dismissed (Alioto is still under indictment; Raj Chopra is nowhere to be found.) The 'new' board was significantly strengthened with the recent 2012 election of two new members as well. Things are much, much better at Southwestern thanks to a community that did take notice, realized everyone had had more than enough, and threw the bums out.

Now, that needs to happen at Sweetwater, and that will take getting the attention of those bodies that can sanction that Board (much as the accreditation issued brought sorely needed spotlight to Southwestern)....The County Office of Education is AWOL here, as that board's own website claims they are responsible for fiscal audits of school districcts in their jurisdiction. Quinones, Ricasa and Cartmill and even Johnny need to go to jail! Short of that, they should be voted out of office too! Only then will "Fast Eddy" Brand be dismissed, and we can recruit a decent superintendent to set the ship on a better course.

Well-meaning folks like Alex Anguiano and Phil Lopez cannot do it themselves. In fact, they are preaching to an internal choir and because of their union commitments, are not always considered credible sources. It takes a whole village to keep watch, and act when necessary. There are a few vigilant and loud folks involved, but everyone who pays taxes should be aware of who the crooks are. Apparently, with the re-election of Quinones, it is evident that the word has not spread far and wide enough.


anniej Dec. 29, 2012 @ 7:24 p.m.

oskidoll: you are correct, it is going to take numbers showing up at the board meetings.

the trials are due to be scheduled on jan 7. new indictments announced friday- MANY INTERESTING NAMES ON THE LIST SO I HEAR. - quinones and ricasa, if they had any sense would take the deal and be gone. the alleged corruption that has plagued southwestern, san ysidro, and sweetwater is an embarrassment to us all. southwestern while better would best be reminded to never go down that road again.

focus on sweetwater folks, focus on john mccann and ed brand - they might just find themselves as the subject of interest. what about the hiring of brand, what about the power that was given to brand, what about the benefits given to brand on a silver platter. AND WHAT ABOUT MCCANN NOMINATING ARLIE RICASA FOR VICE PRESIDENT??????????


eastlaker Dec. 31, 2012 @ noon

Regarding why McCann would nominate Arlie Ricasa for vice-president...there are two options as I see it. One: many of our trustees are living in a dream world, where there are no repercussions for bad behavior, sort of like some toddlers I have known. Two: perhaps there have been assurances from someone in the legal system that they are just going to let things play out, but there will be no teeth in anything, so that it will indeed be business as usual in Sweetwater.

I am hoping that this will not be the case. I just can't understand why more people aren't up in arms over all of this, but perhaps the general public has been worn down...but we should not become tolerant of corruption and this type of cynical self-serving "public servant". The future of our children and our society is far too important to let the scum win.


anniej Dec. 29, 2012 @ 7:02 p.m.

chopra and alioto - both an embarrassment to our community. Lopez, on the other hand, will long be remembered for the professional man of integrity who make a difference in soooooo many peoplel lives.

The Reader - Ms. Luzzaro, Thank You for caring enough to report stories that matter to the South Bay. The Reader is now the source we all flock to for real news, primarily due to the reporting of you Ms. Luzzaro and the fact that The Reader believes in quality reporting by quality reporters.


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