Tony and Lisa Guerrero on giving back: “It’s an honor”

Tony and Lisa Guerrero

Humble and soft-spoken, Tony Guerrero would balk to hear his life story described as one of triumph, perseverance and generosity. But for the UW Bothell community inspired by his two-decade journey to earn his degree and by his long-time support for scholarships, that description fits him to a tee.

Growing up the oldest of six kids in a blue-collar Phoenix family, college was never on the horizon for Tony. He began a vocational heating and air conditioning track in high school, where he met his future wife, Lisa. He joined the Air Force Reserve and, after seeing older construction workers struggling in the blistering Arizona heat, wisely considered his long-term future and found indoor employment at a state-owned events venue.

Motivated by his mother’s drive to earn a degree and become an elementary school teacher while all her kids were still at home — and by his wife’s nighttime college studies while working full time — Tony enrolled in night classes, too.

In 1984, a beloved mentor at his job in Phoenix took a new role at Seattle’s Kingdome and encouraged Tony to join him. Tony moved his family up to the Northwest, kept taking classes at community colleges and eventually enrolled at UW Bothell’s original office park campus. By then, twins Joseph and Mario had joined the family.

The Guerreros returned to Arizona for a few years — again delaying Tony’s degree. Tony was hired by the University of Washington in 2000 to help manage maintenance on the mammoth Seattle campus and once again he enrolled at UW Bothell, which had moved to its current location.

“There was still such a wonderful family feel at UW Bothell,” Tony recalls, fondly remembering when a favorite professor and fellow students came to his rescue with a new textbook and loaned class notes after his were stolen in a car break-in. When he took his last test in 2001, Lisa and the boys greeted him with balloons and cheers.

Today, the proud alumnus holds not only that hard-fought BA in business but also an MBA from Seattle Pacific University. He has worked at UW Bothell since 2003 and now serves as Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Services and Campus Operations. He and Lisa were among the earliest donors to UW Bothell’s first scholarship fund, and their gifts have supported hundreds of students for well over a decade. “I see so many students here today who are far less fortunate than I was,” Tony says.

“I know that when I donate, I’m investing in someone else’s chance to grow and contribute and give back one day. It’s an honor.”

This story was originally published in 2016. In 2017, the Guerreros generously established the Anthony R. and Lisa A. Guerrero Endowed Scholarship to provide need-based financial support to UW Bothell students.