TUCSON, AZ (December 22, 2023) - In November, the University of Arizona announced the public phase of its fundraising campaign, Fuel Wonder. The launch coincides with Homecoming celebrations and includes announcing a $10 million gift from Humberto (Bert) S. Lopez and his wife, Czarina. Bert Lopez is a member of the Eller College of Management Class of 1969. Since 1980, the Lopezes’ have given millions to various programs at the University of Arizona. Most recently, they gave a $10 million gift to name the HSLopez School of Business Analytics at the Eller College of Management.
Stemming from childhood, Lopez has always put hard work and dedication at the forefront of all his endeavors and was born in Nogales as an “anchor baby” from Mexico. At times, his family relied on welfare to survive.
At the young age of 12, his childhood came to a sudden halt when his father passed, leaving Bert—the oldest of six children—to take care of his mother and siblings. Lopez stepped up and began working to support his family financially. He would sell newspapers on street corners, mow lawns, and paint in the afternoons, and when of age, he started working at a grocery store 44 hours a week while attending high school. He would give his earnings to his mother.
His perseverance continued when, after his high school counselor said he was not college material, he found a way to attend Cochise College and proved his guidance counselor wrong when he graduated with his degree in accounting in 1969 from Eller College— known then as the University of Arizona School of Business and Public Administration. Lopez co-founded HSL Properties six years after graduating, now known as one of Arizona’s largest apartment and hotel owner-operated property management companies.
Lopez continues to demonstrate his hard-working attitude to this day. “I still put in 70 to 80 hours a week,” he says. “Success is not defined by becoming wealthy. You find success once you find your passion, and once you find your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Right out of college, he landed a job with the accounting firm Deloitte, Haskins & Sells in Los Angeles and married his college sweetheart, Czarina.
Bert read a book about that time that changed his life: How I Turned $1,000 into $1,000,000 in Real Estate by William Nickerson. He kept working as an accountant at Deloitte but thought he could do some real estate investing on the side.
He borrowed $1,000 for his first deal. It was a single-family lot in Nogales…he paid $3,500 for it (those were the days). Six months and one day later, he sold it for $7,000. He was on his way!
Bert joined the National Guard to meet his military Selective Service commitment. He found himself serving with other business executives with that same commitment, so he organized them into an investment partnership. This was the start of the Lopez real estate empire.
By the time Bert was 29 years old, though still employed by Deloitte, Bert was making more money syndicating apartment buildings than the senior executives at Deloitte. His real estate partnerships extended throughout the Southwest.
By 1975, it was time to cut his ties to Deloitte and fly solo. He brought along his great friend and co-investor/partner Glenn Toyoshima, CPA, and founded HSL Properties.
By 1980, Bert Lopez had already achieved that pinnacle of success. He was on top of his game with a beautiful wife and two young children. He had enough money. He thought maybe he should retire back to Tucson and play golf.
He bought a classic home in El Encanto (where he and Czarina still live) and settled into “retirement.” Retirement lasted just a few months!
From its new base in Tucson, HSL Properties has become a legend in Tucson real estate. His company has formed over 200 partnerships and joint ventures that have helped our community grow.
Bert is an informed risk taker and early believer in downtown Tucson. He bought the Santa Rita Hotel (now the TEP building) in 1977 and several other properties in subsequent years, making HSL the largest downtown property owner. He kept his faith downtown through a lot of lean years. Almost 40 years later, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for Tucson’s downtown core.
HSL Properties has owned and operated over 25,000 apartment units and currently operates approximately 11,000 units, of which about 9,000 are in Tucson.
The Company has developed and revitalized over 2,000 hotel rooms for our tourist trade and employs about 1,000 Arizonans in its hotel and apartment operations and its construction activities.
Although HSL Properties has brought Lopez great success, he has never forgotten his roots. In 2004, Bert and Czarina created The H.S. Lopez Family Foundation. In 2018, they bought a 301-room hotel in Tucson that they converted into a homeless shelter named The H.S. Lopez Family Foundation Center of Opportunity. Of all the millions Bert and Czarina have given to charities, they are most proud of the gift that created The Center of Opportunity.
“Nothing comes close to that one,” says Lopez. “We wanted to give these people dignity, respect, love, and most importantly, a new life.”
Apart from establishing his company and foundation, Lopez has given many generous gifts to the place that sprang him to success— his alma mater.
His first donation to the University of Arizona in 1980 was $1,000 for the Arizona Health Sciences Center. Since then, he hashelped establish the Endowed Chair for Excellence in Cardiovascular Research at the Sarver Center in the College of Medicine, the Dhaliwal-HSLopez Chair in Accounting at the Eller College, the College of Medicine Dean’s Chair under the name of their daughter, Iovanna C. Lopez and his most recent donation to the Eller College’s School of Business Analytics.
When asked if he felt creating the school of business analytics was important, Lopez said: “We all use business analytics. I use business analytics in my company every day. I don’t care what business it is; business analytics is important. By combining accounting and business analytics, students with this experience can go up the pay scale immediately.”
“We at Eller and the entire University of Arizona Wildcat family are indebted to Bert and Czarina,” says Karthik Kannan, Dean and Halle Chair in Leadership in Eller College of Management. “We are grateful for their generous donations of time and money that allow us further to develop tools and resources for our Eller students.”
When asked what inspires him to give, Lopez—who admits he is still a penny pincher and clips coupons—goes back to his youth. “There’s nothing I’m lacking. I’ve been a giver all my life, it’s ingrained in me,” he says. “I grew up on welfare, we were happy because we were given help.”The HSLopez School of Business Analytics will enhance business analytics education through faculty and research endowments and a program endowment.
The Lopezs gave back generously to our community and the country that allowed him to succeed. Bert and Czarina do not publicize all the charities they and their family and businesses support…. but their contributions are in the multiple millions of dollars. Bert has served on many nonprofit boards, including as Chairman of the UArizona Foundation, the United Way, the YMCA, and the Catholic Foundation. He has also served on the board of several New York Stock Exchange-listed corporations, including Pinnacle West and Arizona Public Services (APS).
He has been honored by many organizations, including as Father of the Year and Man of the Year. His HS Lopez Family Foundation continues the tradition of giving back to the community, hoping that the Foundation will continue for many decades.
Bert can reflect on his journey from a bag boy in a Nogales supermarket to a legend in the commercial real estate industry and an example of the opportunity to succeed that our country should make available to all of our children.
For these reasons, Bert Lopez was selected to our Trend Report Best-in-Class “Good Works” Developer for 2023.