Gift honoring a beloved professor will attract top mathematician to Rutgers–Camden

Gift honoring a beloved professor will attract top mathematician to Rutgers–Camden

Gift honoring a beloved professor will attract top mathematician to Rutgers–Camden

Credit: Courtesy of Rutgers–Camden
Leonard Bidwell, above, was a beloved mathematics professor at Rutgers–Camden, where Joseph and Loretta Lopez met as undergraduates. The couple has created an endowed professorship in honor of Bidwell's memory.

Joseph S. and Loretta L. Lopez met at Rutgers–Camden in a
geology class as undergraduate students – she studying psychology, he pursuing
a degree in mathematics. That experience launched a lifelong journey that would
lead to marriage, three children, four grandchildren, and a successful career
in computer science and engineering.

In recognition of Rutgers’ transformative role in their
lives, the Lopezes have created the Joseph and Loretta Lopez Endowed
Professorship in Mathematics in honor of the memory Leonard Bidwell, a
respected Rutgers faculty member.

This endowed professorship is the first on the Camden Campus.
The multimillion dollar gift will allow Rutgers–Camden to attract a top mathematician
to support the campus’s growing program in computational biology. Rutgers–Camden
already is a leader in this expanding discipline, which applies computational
modeling to the biosciences.

“This gift by Joseph and Loretta Lopez truly is visionary in
its scope,” said President Richard L. McCormick. “Through the generous support
of the Lopezes,

Rutgers–Camden will extend its ability to provide students
with unparalleled access to the very best scholarship in this field, while also
contributing greatly to the research that will lead to innovations in the
biosciences and technology for generations to come.”

Sylvia Bidwell offers similar sentiments in praise of the
endowed professorship honoring her father. “Mr. Lopez had my father as a
professor back in the 1960s. I always knew my father had been such an
incredible influence to so many people in his life. This professorship in his
honor has touched our family so much. It just shows how one person can touch so
many people’s lives in such a special way,” she said.

“We wanted to give back to something that gave value to us,”
said Joseph Lopez. “The degree that I got from Rutgers–Camden helped
essentially to launch my career.”

Upon graduating from Rutgers-Camden in 1964, Lopez began his
swift rise up the ranks within the organizations that would shape technology
for America and the world. He became a first-level engineering manager at General
Electric and then went to RCA to take a lead role on the engineering team that
developed the AEGIS system.

Landis and Gyr, a Swiss-owned company which later would merge
with Siemens, tapped Lopez to run a subsidiary organization and advance the
firm’s reputation for producing supervisory control systems for electric
utilities. He would become vice president of engineering and then president. In
1982, Lopez then resigned from Landis and Gyr to launch his own firm, ILEX,
which he sold to L-3 Communications in 1998 and continued to run as president
of L-3–ILEX until May 2005.

While the Lopez family lives in Jupiter, Florida, and
Saratoga, California, its roots in New Jersey continue to run deep – Joseph
lived in Oaklyn and Loretta in Merchantville. Many of those memories center on
the couple’s time at Rutgers–Camden.

After Joseph’s first year at Rutgers–Camden, he took time
off to work at his father’s neon sign company, Lopez Signs in Camden. After 15
months, he returned to his studies and “sprinted to catch up.”

“I signed up for 19 to 23 credits each semester, and
graduated in two years,” he recalled.

During that time, Lopez took classes taught by Bidwell, a
new mathematics professor who made a lasting impact on a student who would
become a leader in the computer engineering field. More than 40 years later,
Lopez remembers fondly his time with Bidwell. “He was interested in explaining
the complex subject matter to his students,” Lopez said. “He was kind and
caring, and a fair grader who gave you what you deserved.”

Bidwell earned awards honoring his teaching at Rutgers–Camden,
which he continued until his death in 2002. When the Lopezes considered how
they might honor both Bidwell and their own experiences at Rutgers–Camden, the
endowed professorship in mathematics seemed a natural answer.

In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate students,
the Joseph and Loretta Lopez Professor in Mathematics will participate actively
in the Systems Biology Institute, a state-of-the-art Camden facility that will
promote collaborative scientific advancements among researchers from Rutgers, the
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Cooper University Hospital,
the Coriell Institute, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and the Cancer
Institute of New Jersey. Funded by a $50 million appropriation by the New
Jersey Legislature, the facility will be constructed near Cooper Hospital in
Camden and will be managed by Rutgers.