Coalinga College – now West Hills College Coalinga – helped guide the future of Peace Corps pioneer and former Arizona House Minority Leader Phil Lopes.

Lopes attended Coalinga College and graduated with an associate degree in liberal arts in 1961. At Coalinga, Lopes served on the student council, and it was while he was at the college that he heard about President John F. Kennedy’s proposal to create the Peace Corps. The decision to apply, he recalled, was “the most important decision of my life in that the Peace Corps experience gave my life direction and formed the values with which I have lived my life, including public service and commitment to family and community.”

Lopes, who served in Colombia, was among the first 27 people invited to be a Peace Corps volunteer. He would later become director of the Peace Corps in Ecuador and Brazil.

In the United States, Lopes worked in the health sector in Arizona for more than a quarter century as an administrator in both for-profit and non-profit organizations, including as assistant director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. He also is a founding faculty member of the University of Arizona College of Public Health.

Lopes moved to Tucson in 1969 to help start Pima Community College, Pima County’s first community college. He represented District 27 (west/southwest Tucson) in the Arizona State House of Representatives from 2003 to 2011.