Ray Legorreta ’57 Honors His Family With Two Scholarships
Ray Legoretta (center) with his two brothers.
When doctors diagnosed Ray Legorreta ’57 with cancer in 2001, his first inclination was to reflect back on his roots before looking forward. Ray pored through old photos and 8-millimeter movies of his family to get a sense of the struggles his dad faced while raising a large family during the Great Depression. “It really got my mind into what it was like for my dad during those times,” Ray says. “He just did a nice job in raising a family. I wanted to find a way perpetually to honor him and the example he set for me.” With this in mind, Ray visited SI’s Alumni Director John Ring ’86 in March and established the Gonzalo Legorreta Memorial Scholarship.
Gonzalo Legorreta, born in Mexico City on April 22, 1893, joined the Federalista Army at a young age, serving through most of the Mexican Revolution and fighting alongside the farmers and their leaders, Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata. In 1916, Gonzalo married Concepcion Garduno and the following year immigrated to San Francisco, where he and Concepcion raised six girls and three boys. Two of the girls, Alicita and Dolores, passed away when they were infants. Their oldest son, Gonzalo, Jr. ’37, was born in 1919 and was one of Ray’s early role models. “Gonnie was the first Legorreta to go to SI,” Ray says of his older brother, 20 years his senior. “I remember him picking me up by both arms, taking me to the park and the beach and riding with him in his fiancé’s convertible. He was also a great student and was more like my dad than the rest of us.” By the time Ray was born in 1939, Gonnie had graduated from SI and was preparing to enter USF, which he did in 1941.
In the meantime, Ray’s father enrolled in night classes in order to become a naturalized citizen. The American Can Company became his main employer during his working career, with the exception of the sabbatical he took during World War II to work as a welder on Liberty ships built at the Marin Shipyards.
Then came the shocking news in 1943. The Legorreta family was notified that Gonzalo Jr., who had interrupted his studies at USF to serve his country as a bombadier in the Army Air Corps, had succumbed to medical complications. Ray was only 4 years old at the time. Two stars adorned the front window of the Legorreta’s Sunset District home in San Francisco during these difficult times, one for Gonzalo Jr. and one for Ray’s other brother, Hector, who was serving in Iceland. “While my dad made great sacrifices to raise a family during the heart of the depression, Gonnie made the ultimate sacrifice. He gave up college and his life to serve his country.” For this reason, Ray also established a second scholarship at SI, the Gonzalo Legorreta, Jr. Memorial Scholarship.
Ray followed in Gonnie’s footsteps, graduating from SI in 1957 and matriculating to a Jesuit college. In fact, Ray’s enrollment at SCU in the late 1950s delayed his father’s scheduled retirement. Gonzalo left the American Can Company in 1964 while Ray was fulfilling his military obligation in the U.S. Army. Gonzalo filled his remaining years with trips to Mexico, where he enjoyed the company of his numerous and ever-increasing relatives. On Sept. 14, 1979, after a lifetime of selflessness, generosity and devotion to family that spanned two centuries, Gonzalo Legorreta, Sr., passed away.
As for Ray, he continues to battle cancer and looks forward to regaining his strength as he approaches his 70th birthday in October. He would like to make a trip to the Sierras in the coming months and is making arrangements to have a headstone put in place at Holy Cross Cemetery to mark the graves of his two young sisters who died long ago. “I have an eye toward fulfilling my family’s legacy right now,” says Ray. He also has a message for the students who will receive his family’s scholarships in the years to come. “I hope they understand the importance of maintaining their faith. That is what SI teaches. SI is above all a Catholic school. It is so easy for young men and women to slip when they join the working world and not focus on what is important regarding their faith. That is my message.”
SI is proud to announce the addition of the Gonzalo Legorreta Memorial Scholarship and the Gonzalo Legorreta, Jr., Memorial Scholarship. If you are interested in starting a perpetual scholarship, contact the Development Office at (415) 731-7500, ext. 211.