In the mid-1940s, William Lopez seized the opportunity to cast out racism in his hometown of Fort Collins with a letter to the town’s newspaper editor. In the letter, he urged businesses to take down signs that refused service to Mexicans.
Lopez’s crusade ultimately would earn him the honor of being the first Mexican-American elected to a city office in Fort Collins, serving terms on both the city council and Larimer County Board of Commissioners.
On April 4, the 14th annual El Centro Achievement Awards will honor the contributions of the late Lopez as well as recognize past and present students at 6 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom. The theme of this year’s event is "Illuminating the Path to the Future." A mariachi band will perform during dinner, and a silent auction will follow dinner and the awards program. A dance also is scheduled at 9:30 p.m. in the LSC West Ballroom.
El Centro Achievement Awards are given to celebrate the accomplishments of Hispanic community members and students graduating from the university. The ceremony will be held in honor of the late Lopez, who is credited with encouraging local Hispanic groups to get involved in civic affairs.
Lopez also was the first Mexican-American educator in the Poudre R-1 School District. During his tenure as a teacher, he developed a highly successful Spanish club, promoted student interest in the Junior Red Cross and developed the first local foreign language laboratory.
"William Lopez’s concern for the Hispanic community became a vision that has transcended generations," said Guadalupe Salazar, director of El Centro Student Services. "This ceremony is a wonderful opportunity to recognize the achievements of Mr. Lopez as well as alumni and students who carry on his efforts." The ceremony also will celebrate the achievements of graduating seniors and recipients of the Elizabeth Woodworth Memorial Scholarship. Ten college scholarships, worth $2,500 each, are given to students in honor of the late Elizabeth "Betty" Woodworth, a longtime editor of The Coloradoan newspaper and civic leader. Several other awards will be announced, including one for a community member, a Colorado State faculty member and two Colorado State distinguished scholars.
In addition, the event serves as a fund-raiser for the El Centro Emergency Loan Fund, which supports students when they encounter financial trouble.
"These funds are important in helping students cope with financial emergencies that may arise during their college years," Salazar said. "It plays a vital role in the support services we are able to offer students." El Centro Student Services is celebrating 20 years at Colorado State helping the needs of students and promoting education about the histories and cultures of Chicanos, Hispanics and Latinos throughout the university and Fort Collins community.
Tickets for the ceremony, dinner and dance cost $25 per person. Corporate tables of 10 cost $500; non-profit or school tables cost $300. The band Poquito Maz will perform at the dance. Tickets can be purchased separately for the dance at $5 per person or $8 per couple.
For more information on the El Centro Achievement Awards Ceremony or to reserve seating, call (970) 491-5721.