It has been incredibly hard to let this new reality sink in, a few days feels like a hundred years, as his sister put it. It hasn’t been easy. It now feels worse as I write about Jose “Eddie” Rivera. Not hard due to lack of words, just hard to get a thought straight between all the emotions and memories, all of those amazing stories that are coming in waves. It’s an emotional rollercoaster in a sea of memories only captured in photographs, and in the hundreds of people sharing their stories of friendship, stories of inspiration, and stories of passion that surrounded everything Jose E. Rivera was and always will be.
My story is not any more or any less special than anyone else who ever met him. My story is many stories, it’s hard to pick one. I loved watching him always dressed up, very professional and how he would light up a room. Everyone was always so excited to see him giving a speech at a SHPE conference, sharing his experiences on a chapter panel, or telling hilarious stories around a close group of people. A group of people that was so fortunate they stayed late after the last event, and caught the gathering around him. If you were even luckier, maybe you had a chance to speak one-on-one with this positive and genuine person giving honest advice for a student member’s struggle, a professional member’s quest for achievement, motivational words for our dedicated SHPE staff; and for a friend that just needed encouragement (and sometimes a kick in the behind, a few of us got one or two!).
I wouldn’t have been on the SHPE Board and other positions if it wasn’t for his continued support and encouragement, let alone his knowledge and experience. He had a unique way of challenging us, making us think outside of ourselves, and enjoy every minute of our conversations, ideas, never any wrong answers, and strategize on improving the chapters and growing Region IV. When I was frustrated with work, life and SHPE, we traveled to the chapters, the events, and through this dedication he showed me (he showed all of us) why we continue the hard work and motivate others to do the same. I wouldn’t be the person or leader I am today. His passion and selflessness for our members, our chapters, and our community, cannot be described in one story.
I heard it before and I’m hearing it now through the sharing of memories…He was a true leader, an inspiration, always a light, a great mentor, the “tormentor” mentor, a friend, a gentleman, a force to be reckoned with, brother, protector, a great inspiration to our Latino youth. His sense of humor was remarkable, ONE OF A KIND with a contagious smile, a great supporter and motivator, a sweet personality, gave nothing but good advise, a huge part of everyone’s SHPE experience, a fierce friend and a passionate leader. Jose was a genuine good guy who made hundreds of students laugh and helped them grow and succeed, remember his smile and good sense of humor, he was family and always gave his heart willingly and openly. Jose was always ready with a good story, made you passionate about your own strengths, an amazing human being, the pillar and champion of SHPE and our community, always looking to help and give back, gentle and funny soul, an incredible inspiration, LARGER THAN LIFE WITH ENDLESS ENERGY.
If he heard us call him “our SHPE Legend,” he would tell us to stop as he was so humble and did not care for the credit or glory. He was a great servant and he did it for our community.
He connected with all, young, old, student, professional, advisors, corporate members…including strangers. This finally leads me into one of thousands of memories, this is when he met my brother. Jose and I were traveling to one of the SHPE national conferences, and I took one of my younger brothers, still in high school. He was so smart, always the smartest of us siblings, but I worried and wanted to ensure he continued on to college. Jose sat right next to him the whole trip and just chatted about life, cracked some jokes, and in his unique way lead the conversation through all that made my brother tick. One thing you need to know about my brother, we called him “El Mudo” (“the mute”) since he was so quiet, quite the introvert. Jose could make anyone talk up a storm, and I was impressed at the sight of those two striking up some deep conversations, despite never knowing each other prior to that moment. My brother had a great time, and a wonderful experience at the conference and hanging out with Senor Presidente Jose E. Rivera topped it all! My brother went on to study and graduate with a Software Engineering degree, joining SHPE and serving on the chapter boards.
Now it’s hard to think that Jose will no longer be around us, his family, his friends, but it pains me just as much for those who will never get to meet him, or work with him. We were truly fortunate. It is a big task, and by no means can we ever fill his shoes, but it is up to us to continue his legacy and his passion for our community, and to challenge ourselves as he once did.
“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world. Oh Captain, My Captain!”
Thank you for making us laugh, making us cry, for touching our minds and souls; as we celebrate your years of selfless service. Jose “Eddie” Rivera, your memory lives on in the hearts of all whose days you made brighter and whose journeys you inspired. Let’s continue his SHPE legacy.