Longtime University of Arizona supporters and volunteers Humberto and Czarina Lopez have given the University of Arizona $3.5 million to establish two endowed chairs.
The Czarina M. and Humberto S. Lopez Endowed Chair for Excellence in Cardiovascular Research has been established at Sarver Heart Center with $2 million from the overall gift. Carol Gregorio, PhD, co-director of Sarver Heart Center and chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the College of Medicine – Tucson, is the inaugural chair holder. She also is the director of the Molecular Cardiovascular Research Program at Sarver Heart Center.
The Lopezes directed $1.5 million to establish the Dhaliwal-HSLopez Chair in Accounting at the Eller College of Management in honor of Dan Dhaliwal, a 1977 alumnus, who was head of the accounting department from 1996 until his passing in 2016.
“Bert and Czarina are inspiring members of the Wildcat family,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins, MD. “This exceptional investment in health and education adds to their already generous legacy of time, expertise and philanthropy. I am so grateful for their transformative support and their far-reaching impact across campus.”
Humberto Lopez is a 1969 graduate of the Eller College and chair of HSL Properties, Arizona’s largest owner-operated property management company, which he co-founded. The Lopezes are well-known at the university and in the Tucson community for their philanthropy and for their volunteer service on many organizations’ governing boards.
The Lopezes are proud of Humberto’s alma mater and pleased to do what they can to help, they said.
“We’ve been blessed, and we’re getting to an age where we realize we can’t take it with us. We started out with nothing and we will leave with nothing, so in the meantime we’d like to be able to help others,” Humberto Lopez said.
“It grows on you. The more you give, the more you notice it’s not enough,” Czarina Lopez said.
Humberto Lopez recalls a high school counselor saying he wasn’t college material because he was a C student. What the counselor didn’t know was that Lopez was working long hours to help support his family and didn’t have much time for homework. The counselor’s comment gave Lopez a greater sense of determination to pursue higher education. He enrolled at Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona, before transferring to the University of Arizona, where he majored in accounting.
“Attending the University of Arizona was the best decision I ever made. It was a steppingstone to get me where I am today,” he said.
The couple have remained connected to the university ever since Lopez’s graduation. They built strong relationships across campus as they served on and led advisory and governing boards for the Eller College, the Steele Children’s Research Center, the UArizona Foundation and Sarver Heart Center.
“Bert and Czarina Lopez have been effective friends of Sarver Heart Center for decades. Their engagement and community connections literally helped build the center,” Sarver Heart Center Director Nancy Sweitzer, MD, PhD, said. “Their partnership and advice continue to help guide the direction of the center, and by establishing this endowed chair, they have in perpetuity expanded our ability to recruit and retain world-class faculty. Their generous philanthropy will reinforce the renowned research capabilities of the Gregorio Lab immediately and forever increase the stature of Sarver Heart Center at the University of Arizona.” Dr. Sweitzer also is professor of medicine and chief of cardiology at the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson.
The couple’s affiliation with the College of Medicine – Tucson through the Sarver Heart Center is made more personal by Czarina Lopez’s experience as a heart and kidney transplant recipient. While she had the transplant at another medical center, she has been a patient of Sarver Heart Center, with Dr. Sweitzer and Professor Emeritus Dr. Gordon A. Ewy, former director of the center, providing care.
“We trust Carol will put the money to good use and help people with problems related to heart disease, which has affected us. She’s capable and highly thought of. This addition will help advance her research,” Humberto Lopez said. “We expect her to do great things.”
“This appointment will allow me to expand my research program to identify how mutations in essential heart muscle proteins lead to devastating diseases of heart muscle. Obtaining this information is key to the design of new therapeutics. Importantly, this gift allows us to pursue exciting new research directions that involve riskier ‘fishing expedition’ experiments, often resulting in high-impact data necessary to submit competitive applications for scarce federal research funds,” said Dr. Gregorio, who also is executive director, Health Sciences Global and Online, assistant vice provost, Global Health Sciences, and a member of the BIO5 Institute.
“The Lopez endowed chair further strengthens the College of Medicine’s commitment to a robust and collaborative research program. The Molecular Cardiovascular Research Program led by Dr. Gregorio encompasses physicians and scientists from academic and clinical areas in the College of Medicine – Tucson in the departments of cellular and molecular medicine, physiology, pharmacology, cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery,” said Michael M. I. Abecassis, MD, MBA, dean, College of Medicine – Tucson, and professor, Departments of Surgery & Immunobiology.