Former Los Angeles Times reporter and Cal Poly journalism professor George Ramos passed away late July in his Morro Bay home at the age of 63, apparently of natural causes. Three Business Times reporters had the opportunity to interact with Ramos over the years and share their thoughts here:
Business Times Finance Editor Marlize van Romburgh was taught and mentored by Ramos as a student at Cal Poly and remembers him as a witty and passionate professor who had given his whole life to journalism.
He was never married and didn’t have children, but spent his days and evenings on campus, taking promising journalism students under his wing to teach them the finer points of the profession. He challenged Van Romburgh in her very first reporting classes at the school and proved to be a tough grader.
When she was selected as the editor of the school newspaper, the Mustang Daily, he took a moment to pull her into his office. “Kid, you remind me of me when I was your age.” It was a huge compliment.
A graduate of that same journalism department, Ramos saw combat in Vietnam before going on to a prestigious career at the Los Angeles Times, where he helped the newspaper win three Pulitzer Prizes.
He was passionate about reporting on the city’s Hispanic community, which he felt was underrepresented in the media.
He headed up Cal Poly’s journalism department for several years, then continued on as a professor. Ramos pushed his students to relentlessly track down sources and facts, and to hold public figures accountable. The students he mentored will no doubt remember him as a man with the war stories — and fashion sense — of a veteran newspaper reporter.
He was as generous with his wealth as he was with his time, and has a scholarship fund in his name for promising journalism students.
Technology Editor Stephen Nellis remembers Ramos as the keeper of the memory of “The Battle of Chavez Ravine,” the culture clash between Anglo power brokers and working class Mexican-American families over the construction of Dodger Stadium. Ramos loved his Eastside L.A. neighborhood but he loved the Dodgers too and he instructed his protégés on the finer points of eating a Dodger Dog. He said it was a delicacy which, like the bases on the diamond, was best enjoyed fully loaded.
Tom Bronzini, a longtime L.A. Times staffer and now regular Business Times freelance writer, remembers Ramos as plain-spoken and passionate. Bronzini worked with Ramos for more than 25 years. “His Pulitzer Prize-winning work on the paper’s Latino Project was an important contribution as the paper worked to broaden its coverage of the metropolis.
Later, when he wrote a weekly column, he was a strong voice for the Latino community,” Bronzini said.
Ramos also was an avid baseball fan and a charter member of the L.A. Times office group of about 20 Dodger season ticketholders. Bronzini sat with him at games occasionally, and always enjoyed talking about with him about baseball and happenings at the office.