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Francisco “Pancho” Lopez Scholarship Established

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Bob Haas (center, back), daughter Elise (far left) and wife Colleen with long-time family friend, Pancho Lopez, and scholarship recipient Jose Guerrero Cota (far right).

August 15, 2014

As Jose Guerrero Cota dons a white coat today in the annual UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine ceremony for incoming students, he will experience another step in realizing his childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian. That dream is coming true, thanks to a new scholarship established by Bob Haas, who established an endowment to provide four years of support for a Hispanic student entering veterinary school.

The inspiration for the new Francisco “Pancho” Lopez Scholarship was to honor “Pancho” Lopez, a close friend of the Haas family and an accomplished horseman, responsible for the care of some of the world’s foremost equine athletes in showjumping. 

“This scholarship is an expression of love, respect, affection, and of hope,” said Haas, former chairman of Levi Strauss & Co. and a dedicated philanthropist. “Originally it was a birthday gift for my beloved wife Colleen, who enriches my life in so many ways. It’s also a measure of respect for Pancho Lopez, with whom we’ve been associated for many years and for whom we have deep affection. And finally, it’s a measure of hope that talented young deserving students get opportunities to become veterinarians and help animals in the ways that Pancho has done throughout his distinguished career.”

Pancho came to San Diego at the age of 16 to stay with family, some of whom held jobs at the Del Mar racetrack. On his first day in the U.S., Pancho was handed the reins to hot-walk a couple of race horses. That experience sparked a passion for working with horses that has lasted a half century and led Pancho to manage some of the top barns in the country and care for dozens of the greatest horses in the sport at Olympic Games, World Cup Finals and World Championships. He also spent many years working with Elise Haas (Bob and Colleen’s daughter) and her horses in various competitions, building a strong base of friendship between the Lopez and Haas families.

Although Pancho’s intellect and potential were noticed early on by a top U.S. Equestrian Team veterinarian and he was offered the financial resources to attend veterinary school, his family commitments kept him from pursuing that career path. The Haas family established the scholarship in hopes that the most talented, passionate aspiring veterinarians would be able to follow their dreams, regardless of financial circumstances, and in the process enrich the academic, veterinary and public communities they serve. 

“Through the years, the Haas family has shown incredible generosity to causes near and dear to their hearts,” said Michael Lairmore, dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “This is a wonderful example of their continued support for academic achievement, particularly for underserved populations. Their scholarship endowment will continue Pancho’s legacy for generations to come and offer tremendous opportunity to dedicated students.”

Guerrero Cota’s fascination with animals began on his grandparent's farm in Sonora, Mexico where he spent summers, learning from his grandfather the responsibilities that come with keeping animals. He would occupy his days eagerly feeding and cleaning pens, just to be in the company of the goats and pigs. His desire to become a veterinarian started in second grade with a combined love for science and animals—mostly cats at the time. He learned more about the profession in the past few years through internships at a local shelter in Long Beach where he grew up and the Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro. A graduate of Long Beach State University, Guerrero Cota majored in biology to prepare him for a career in veterinary medicine. Already his conversations with people at the school have opened his mind for where he wants to focus his veterinary career—whether in small animal medicine, wildlife, or equine medicine. 

“Being part of a minority culture has given me valuable insight into the differing views that some communities hold towards veterinary medicine,” Guerrero Cota said. “For this reason, one of my goals as a veterinarian will be to help educate communities on the importance that veterinary medicine has on animal and human populations. I can’t express to the Haas family and to Pancho how much this means to me. It represents opportunity and I can leave veterinary school without the burden of worrying about the debt that so many graduates have. I would like to thank them so much for giving me that freedom.”