José Bahamonde-González, an attorney, legal administrator and associate dean of the University of Maryland Francis K. Carey School of Law, died of an acute infection May 15 at his North Baltimore home. He was 62.
“José was a fixture in every part of the law school,” said the school’s dean, Donald B. Tobin. “He was a special guy who lit up a room. He had energy and connection. His core was people.”
Born in Santiago, Cuba, he was the son of José “Pepe” Bahamonde, a certified public accountant and Sonia González, a hairdresser and salon owner. He and his parents left Cuba shortly after his birth and ultimately settled in Puerto Rico. He attended Sacred Heart Academy in Santurce, Puerto Rico, and was elected president of his senior class. He then earned a degree at the University of Puerto Rico. He sang in the college glee club.
Mr. Bahamonde-González earned a business administration degree from the University of Massachusetts and became an auditor with the Bank of Boston. He soon decided that he needed to advance beyond accounting and earned a degree at Syracuse University College of Law. He graduated in 1992.
He went into law school administration. He served as assistant director for Career Services and Coordinator for Minority Affairs at the Georgetown University Law Center and he later was assistant dean for the Career Planning Center at the University of Miami School of Law.
He then moved to Baltimore and worked for 22 years at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, serving in administrative positions. He had been associate dean for administrative affairs and Student Services and associate dean for professional education. He was known colloquially as Dean José.
Maryland Law School’s Dean Tobin said Mr. Bahamonde-González exuded enthusiasm and had the ability to uplift others.
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“He forced you where you wanted to go,” said Mr. Tobin. “He helped students who weren’t aiming as high as they could or weren’t sure of themselves. He encouraged what was special about people and helped them see their own skills. He pushed a power of confidence to others.”
“Mr. Bahamonde-González was a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion,” said a University of Maryland Law School statement. “He was the inaugural chair and member of the Diversity Advisory Council of the University of Maryland, Baltimore; served on the Law School Admissions Council Diversity Committee; and was a member of the Student Services Section of the Association of American Law Schools.”
“We began working in 1997, and our relationship soon went from being colleagues to a friendship,” said Andreas Ortmeyer, a law school colleague. “You knew when José was in the building. He brought this energy with him. He brought that same vibrancy to any personal event — a birthday or a newborn’s arrival. He thrived off other’s peoples’ energy. People just wanted to talk to him.”
“I was in my last year of law school when we connected. He took me under his wing,” said attorney Kraig Long. “He was energetic, thoughtful and creative. He was a force for diversity at the school and he put those beliefs into action.”
“He and his partner would host a Valentine’s Day party for LGBTQ students and their friends,” said Adam Farra, a 2011 Maryland Law School graduate who practices in Washington, D.C. “It was important for making them feel a part of the Baltimore community and the law school community. José’s driving force was inclusivity and encouraging folks who came from communities that had been underrepresented in the legal profession. He helped them network and played a role as counsellor to those students.”
In 2019 Mr. Bahamonde-González, while remaining at the law school, also became the downtown Baltimore law firm of Miles & Stockbridge’s Chief Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Professional Development Officer.
He went on to serve as Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton’s Senior Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Manager in 2021.
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He worked with students, lawyers, professors, administrators and others to increase opportunities, open doors, and build pipelines to improve diversity in the legal profession.
He was gregarious and had an infectious smile. He was kind with so much energy behind it,” said his husband, Gerald Alan Popko. “He was known for giving the best hugs, a hug full of love.”
In 2018, he received the Maryland Hispanic Bar Association Outstanding Achievement Award for his work counseling and mentoring Latinx law students and lawyers.
And in 2020, Syracuse University College of Law honored him with the Latin American Law Students Association Legacy Award.
Mr. Bahamondez-Gonzalez and his husband, Gerald Popko, were in a committed relationship for 27 years and married in 2009 when marriage equality was legalized. Survivors also include two sons, Jason Popko and Benjamin Popko, both of Atlanta; his sister, Ana Marta Bahamonde-Manzano of Houston; two nephews, Roberto José Manzano of Houston and Luis Antonio Manzano of San Juan; and three grandchildren.
A memorial service is being planned for Westminster Hall of the University of Maryland, West Fayette Street. A date has not been set.