Passion for Community

By Valerie Vinyard

To describe Humberto Lopez and his wife, Czarina, as philanthropic is an understatement.

For years, they have tirelessly volunteered. They serve on multiple boards. Humberto in particular has a talent for procuring money and endowments for his favorite causes. Over the years, this couple has donated millions of their own dollars.

One of their favorite causes is the Steven M. Gootter Foundation.

“We’re helping on a cause that’s very dear to us,” Humberto said. “It’s a good cause. Hopefully we’ll save a lot of lives.”

The Gootter Foundation is grateful for all of their contributions over the years. On March 16 they will be honored with the Steven M. Gootter Philanthropic Award at the ninth annual Gootter Grand Slam gala dinner at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa.

Many community leaders tout this couple as an integral part of the philanthropic scene in Tucson. They speak of how these two lavish local philanthropies with time and money.

Ed Parker, former president and CEO of the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, is one of those leaders. During his 34-year tenure with Tucson’s United Way, Parker established relationships with multiple philanthropic leaders in the community. Of those, he said that Lopez was one of the United Way’s first million-dollar donors.

“The neat thing about the family is they are multifaceted in their charitable approach,” Parker said. “I think that’s what makes them unique – they have multiple interests in serving the community.

“When I was leading the United Way in Tucson, he made an impact. It was real leadership,” he added. “He’s very creative in his philanthropic approach. Because he’s a good businessperson, he would leverage his gifts and others.”

For a duo that’s still such a driving force in Tucson, it’s interesting that Humberto and Czarina first moved to Tucson in 1980 to retire.

That idea didn’t last long.

Ever since they arrived in Tucson, their certifications and board appointments have read like a Who’s Who of organizations.

“It’s been a good community – and we feel we have to give back to the community,” Czarina said.

Her husband agreed.

“We’re a charitable couple,” said Humberto, noting that he created The H.S. Lopez Family Foundation in Tucson about five years ago, which distributes monies to various organizations.

Humberto is from Nogales, Ariz., and Czarina is from Nogales, Son. The couple first met at a local fair when he was 21 and she was 16.

They’ve been married 44 years and have two daughters – Iovanna Couig and Iliana Lopez-Carter – and four grandchildren. They have lived in Tucson’s El Encanto neighborhood since 1980.

After graduating from Nogales High School in 1965, Humberto earned his associate degree from Cochise Community College before moving on to The University of Arizona, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. After college, he worked as a CPA for six years for Deloitte, Haskins and Sells in Los Angeles, developing an expertise in real estate. In 1971, he began investing in real estate and opened his own company in 1975.

Today his Tucson-based companies employ about 500. Lopez serves as president of HSL Properties and HSL Asset Management. About 25 work at the East Broadway headquarters. The rest are scattered among his 40-some apartment complexes and hotels in Tucson, Phoenix and Yuma.

While he remained busy with work over the decades, Humberto always carved out time to serve on nonprofit boards and organizations. One of those – The University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center – is supported by The Gootter Foundation, including research at the Resuscitation Research Lab and The Steven M. Gootter Endowed Chair for the Prevention of Sudden Cardiac Death. The chair is held by Dr. Jil C. Tardiff, a cardiologist who specializes in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Dr. Gordon Ewy was the longtime director and chief of cardiology of Sarver Heart Center. Now retired, the cardiologist has known Humberto for 20 or 25 years. Lopez was on the Sarver advisory board and later became board director. Ewy noticed positive changes almost immediately.

“Things really started to improve,” Ewy said. “He was very influential in helping us obtain endowments – which is critical in academic medicine. He’s very smart. He was invaluable.”

Liz McMahon is director of development for Catholic Community Services. She’s known the Lopezes for years, although she mainly has worked with Czarina.

“It’s just the energy and the love that you feel when you’re working with her,” McMahon said. “She’s an epidemic. You can’t help but feel her enthusiasm and passion. She’s one of my favorite people.”

McMahon is impressed because the Lopezes are doing more than writing checks.

“They’re involved not only because they’re philanthropists – but they work too,” she said. “They’re a blessing to our organization and a blessing to our community.”

The Lopezes hope to leave a legacy of philanthropy.

“Our objectives are education, health and welfare,” Humberto said. “Our goal is to leave a big chunk behind.”

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