After a quarter of a century as director of community relations at the University of California, San Francisco, Barbara Bagot-Lopez retires this month. She hopes to use her free time to reconnect with her neighborhood, Bernal Heights, and rededicate herself to her activist roots.
“Hitting 25 years was like ZING!” laughed Bagot-Lopez. “Wow, 25 years. Really? UCSF has kept me pretty busy, that and raising a daughter [Adela]. I haven’t been as active in my community as I would like, so I am looking forward to getting back there.”
Bagot-Lopez recalled participating in peace protests when she was at Pennsbury High School, and taking over the dean’s office at Boston College in response to the dismissal of the Dean of Women. “I was involved in feminist and peace movements for as long as I can remember,” said Bagot-Lopez.
In 1976, Bagot-Lopez made her way to San Francisco with her brother, Buck, fleeing Boston’s cold winters, of Boston, leaving behind her hometown of Yardley, Pennsylvania and her birthplace of Trenton, New Jersey. San Francisco proved to be a perfect fit.
“I love the City. It’s a beautiful City. It’s a diverse City,” said Bagot-Lopez. “I think the main reason I love this City is because it’s an activist town. It is kind of a small town in a funny way, and I have so much respect for people who volunteer their time out of the love for their neighborhood and community.“
While activism was always on her mind, Bagot-Lopez found herself on a very different path before set- tling at UCSF. Her first significant job was as a systems analyst and project manager in the information technology field. She worked for two major banks, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. While this career track began in Boston, she stuck with it, for a short period, in San Francisco.
“It was odd path because I was a sociology major, [computers] was something I ended up minoring in because I had to take a stats course for my major, and I really got into computers,” Bagot-Lopez said. “And that was the old days, I was a pioneer. But I always found time to be active in my community in my spare time as a volunteer.”
After moving to San Francisco, Bagot-Lopez volunteered on efforts related to affordable housing and rent control. She was co-founder of the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, was involved in peace efforts in Nicaragua, and, in the 1980s, worked to build a grassroots movement to keep the San Francisco Giants from moving to Tampa, Florida. “Yay! We won!” she laughed.
But it wasn’t enough “I think I decided I wasn’t fulfilled enough doing community work in my spare time,” said Bagot-Lopez, “but I had to find a way to make a living doing it.”
In 1990, Irene Agnos, former Mayor Art Agnos’s sister, was sifting through resumes at UCSF when she came across a familiar name: Barbara Bagot-Lopez. “[Agnos] had been brought in to help UCSF build better relationships with the community because we had a rough couple of decades in the ‘60s and ‘70s,” explained Bagot-Lopez. “[UCSF] wasn’t growing in a very community friendly way back then. But then she saw my name. She knew me because I had been a volunteer on her brother’s mayoral campaign, and she knew I was a community activist. And so she thought that would be an interesting fit, and it was. It was a good marriage as far as I was concerned, because working for a nonprofit institution with such a great reputation for improving people’s lives.”
Throughout her time at UCSF Bagot-Lopez has engaged, inspired, knocked on doors, pushed forward, jumped through hoops, negotiated, empathized, and worked towards achieving UCSF’s mission of improving health worldwide. One of her first efforts, started in 1996, led to the creation of the Mission Bay campus, followed by the siting of a helipad at Benioff Children’s Hospital in 2014.
“The people I have worked with over the years at UCSF are so smart, and dedicated, and dedicated to really good causes,” said Bagot-Lopez, “and the community of people I’ve worked with since I’ve been here… it’s been just such a privilege to work with the UCSF staff and students. But now that my daughter has grown up I should get back to my activist roots. I will have more time to stay in touch with people I love and respect. I am definitely nostalgic about leaving UCSF; there is no question about it. But I’m not going anywhere. I will be around that’s for sure.”