Margaret Lopez’ mother used to tell her that too much reading would ruin her eyes.
“But see, I have 20-20 vision,” says Lopez, who is 88. “So she was wrong.”
Though she had to hide her reading – an early sign of her love for education – from her well-meaning mother, the important place education holds in her life can be seen through everything she does.
Lopez got herself, her football-player husband and her three children through college. And she’s advised hundreds of students during her 59 years as an employee of West Virginia University.
Click below to hear Margaret Lopez describe why she loves WVU and what she'll miss about it.
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This month, she retires. The University will hold a reception to commemorate Lopez’ service on Wednesday, Feb. 23, from 4-5 p.m. in the lobby of One Waterfront Place.
“Margaret Lopez has served this University for nearly six decades,” said WVU President Jim Clements. “Her loyalty to WVU reflects the kind of commitment that is so often found in our staff who serve this great University. It’s been my pleasure to have worked with Margaret these last two years, and I know she holds a special place in the hearts of many colleagues.”
Lopez, who is currently WVU’s longest-serving employee, is one of the oldest workers in the state. The thought of retirement makes her sad, but getting around is harder now, and it seems like the right time.
But even though she won’t be working at WVU every day, she’ll still be teaching somebody. She plans to continue teaching at the Monongalia County Technical Education Center, where she’s taught night classes in typing and conversational Italian for more than 40 years. She estimates that she’s taught about 16,000 people how to type.
A life of learning and teaching
WVU and education have been her life.
“Once you’re educated, nobody can come and take it out of your head,” she says. “You’re safe. You have an education; you know how to deal with people. It just teaches you everything.”
As a 6-year-old she emigrated to the U.S. with her family from Calabria, Italy. Lopez graduated from Morgantown High School and in 1942, after a short-term job, she began working in the registrar’s office at WVU.
It was there that she registered her future husband, Russell Lopez, a center for the Mountaineers football team. She still has a football from a game he played in which WVU beat Penn State 28-27.
“At Penn State,” she adds with proud emphasis.
After marrying, she was away for 10 years raising her three children. Then she became secretary at the College of Education, now the College of Human Resources & Education, where she worked for 50 years, 40 of them as an adviser.
During her second stint at WVU and at the age of 42, she worked toward her own education, receiving a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in English.
She served two years on WVU’s Board of Governors. She’s now an administrative assistant to the Staff Council. During her time on the Staff Council, which she chaired for a time, she ran an employee recognition program.
Lopez knows WVU has changed since her first days here when the University had about 5,000 students and she would take her breaks by a fish pond behind Stewart Hall. There was no Evansdale campus back then. There was no Ruby Memorial Hospital. But there were people. And it’s the people that she most enjoys.
The variety of people is part of the education here, she says.
“When you come here and see all these students and different nationalities, you learn that there are a lot of people in the world, not just yourself; a lot of people who are trying to survive and make a living,” she said.
Her grandson, Christian Schaupp, said that his grandparents, especially his grandmother gave him “a path to follow.”
Schaupp, who holds a Ph.D., is an assistant professor of accounting at WVU. It was due to his grandmother that he knew his multiplication tables at about 5 years old.
“I think her biggest impact is probably the legacy that she leaves,” he said.
Lopez’ three children and grandchildren are highly educated, he said. She was a teacher by nature and by training, a quality which she passed on to Schaupp’s mother who was a teacher, and to Schaupp, a professor.
“I’d be very sick if any of my kids didn’t have an education,” Lopez said.
Schaupp said that to Lopez WVU means pride and family.
“Growing up it was all WVU, all the time,” he said. “There was no avoiding it. I was exposed to WVU at a very early age.”
Jo Morrow, Staff Council chair and WVU Board of Governors staff representative said Lopez’ knowledge and service has been invaluable to classified staff and the Staff Council.
“Her dedication to West Virginia University for over 59 years serves as an inspiration to all of us,” Morrow said. “Classified staff, faculty and the administration at WVU as well as the University community will miss her. Ms. Lopez we salute you.”
Terry Nebel, a previous Staff Council chair, said Lopez has connected people at the University and in the community during her time here.
“Given her long history with WVU, Mrs. Lopez has connections in almost every agency in the State of West Virginia and was a great resource when it came to finding a human link for issues on Staff Council’s agenda,” he said. “I knew I could always count on her to help me connect the links for a successful solution.”
Lopez says she’s always loved WVU, a place she’s had a connection with since she was 18.
“I think it exposes you to a lot of other people’s lives and you get to meet people that all have different feelings and different ideas, and you learn a lot from other people. You don’t get to the point where you think you know it all.
“Even when I go away, I think of home; I think of WVU,” she said.
By Diana Mazzella
CONTACT: University Relations/News
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