Passing of Tri-C, Esperanza giant is tremendous loss for education and the Cleveland area
By Kevin Milliken, La Prensa Correspondent
The greater Cleveland Hispanic community lost an icon and leader last week, as Abelino (Al) López, Jr., age 70, passed away.
Sr. López is best known as an education advocate for Latino children, working tirelessly to give them opportunities to better themselves at every level.
“Al touched countless lives. He leaves a hole in our hearts, as well as the heart of the community,” said José Feliciano, Sr., head of the Hispanic Roundtable. “A true giant has passed. Our sense of loss is just enormous.”
“I think he did everything for our community,” said Kent Aguilar, best friend of the late López. “Al was not just concerned about education. He did something about it.”
The retired Cuyahoga Community College professor and counselor also helped to found Esperanza, Inc. more than 30 years ago. The nonprofit group works to prepare Latino teens for college and raises scholarship money to help them afford a higher education. López was named as the organization’s president-emeritus after serving as its first board president from 1984 to 1992.
“He was a humble man and never wanted public recognition,” said Victor Ruiz, Esperanza’s current executive director. “I want him to be remembered as an amazing, wonderful person, a great family man, a great mentor, and a community servant.”
Ruiz noted that even after López stepped away from a leadership role with Esperanza, “he was always there for future board members and staff.” Even though Ruiz has been with Esperanza for just four years, he and López go back a decade together. Ruiz saw him as a mentor and friend.
“He put in countless hours, just sitting together and talking about how to move Esperanza forward,” Ruiz said. “It was not just work. It was an opportunity to build a personal relationship together.”
Aguilar echoed those sentiments, calling López the longtime leader of the Hispanic community on many fronts—but also a man who looked out for individual Latinos whenever possible.
“He was basically a counselor to everybody on personal issues, not just students,” said Aguilar. “He was a leader for all of us in our community.”
López, of Mexican descent, was born on August 30, 1944 in Tyler, TX before moving to Lorain.
After graduating from Lorain Admiral King High School in 1962, he joined the Air Force and served a four-year tour of duty during the Vietnam War before being discharged as a sergeant.
Using the G.I. bill, López completed an associate’s degree at Lorain County Community College, a bachelors’ degree in psychology and a Master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling at Kent State University.
López spent 32 years at Cuyahoga Community College, where he earned full tenure as a professor. He also founded and co-chaired the Hispanic Steering Council, a Tri-C standing committee with the mission to identify, prioritize, and facilitate the implementation of Hispanic initiatives that would benefit both the college and its Latino community. Upon his retirement in 2004, López was awarded the distinguished title of Professor Emeritus.
Many friends of López never knew he was a Mexican-American who had assumed a leadership role in a community comprised mainly of Puerto Ricans. He married into that community with his wife of 37 years, Alicia, who is retired academic director of Aurora City Schools. The couple raised their two children in Broadview Heights.
According to friends, López also served on the boards of The Hispanic Roundtable of Cleveland, where he also served as board vice chairman; The Hispanic Alliance; The Spanish-American Committee; the Northeast Chapter of Image, Inc.; the Cleveland Roundtable Education Committee; the City of Cleveland Private Industry Council, the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; and the Cleveland Foundation Committee for the German Marshall Fellowship.
López was honored for his work at Tri-C with the Ralph M. Besse Award for Teaching Excellence (1999) and the Cuyahoga Community College Appreciation Award (1993) for his work on the Hispanic Steering Council. For his community work, he was awarded the Cleveland State University “Padrino”Award (1993) and The Spanish American Committee Award (1978) for service to the community as a board member and consultant. In addition, López completed the Education Policy Fellowship Program at the Institute for Educational Learning and the Leadership Cleveland Program.
In addition to his professional and volunteer work, López was a consultant, specializing in organizational behavior, non-profit organizations, higher education, career development, and Hispanic/Latino programming.
Mr. López is survived by his wife Alicia, his children, Tony and Alana, five siblings, and his father Abelino López, Sr. He was preceded in death by his mother Margarita López and grandparents Lucas and Jesusita Villarreal and Salome and Felipita López.
A funeral mass was held Monday morning at La Sagrada Familia Parish, 7719 Detroit Ave., Cleveland. A private funeral will be held at a later date at Sunset Memorial Park, 6245 Columbia Rd., North Olmsted. The López family requests donations can be made to the Abelino “Al” López Memorial Scholarship Fund, Esperanza, Inc., 3104 W. 25th St., 4th floor, Cleveland, OH 44109.
Editor’s Note: La Prensa wishes to thank José Feliciano, Sr. for his input in writing this Kevin Milliken article.