Lea Dopson spent more than 15 years at The Collins College of Hospitality Management — as a faculty member and then dean — teaching and mentoring her students and taking pride in their achievements.
She also had another side to her: full of life and fun, she enjoyed trips to Disneyland and dinner with her friends.
“She always wanted to go to restaurants that had some connections to her students,” said Laura Massa, a friend of Dopson’s and Cal Poly Pomona’s associate vice president for academic programs. “She truly did love this work and this community and her students and supported them in all things.”
A friend of Dopson’s, Gonzalez had seen a picture of a foal at the center that was born the day after Dopson died. That photo gave her the idea to ask horse center Executive Director John Lambert if the center could name the foal in Dopson’s memory as a tribute. Lambert readily agreed.
“Looking at that photo just made me smile,” Gonzalez said. “The horse was almost dancing in the photo, and it just brought Lea to mind.”
The foal’s official registered name will be “CP Classie Lea”:
- “CP” for Cal Poly Pomona, which is recognized in the Arabian horse industry.
- “Classie” was the barn nickname picked by agricultural science senior Hailey Bjerknes, a traditional honor given to the live-in student who takes the lead in the foaling of the horse.
- “Lea” for Dopson.
The Arabian Horse Association has verified that the horse center can use the name, although it won’t be officially registered until later this year, Lambert said.
The filly can trace her lineage back to one of the original stallions W.K. Kellogg imported from England in 1926.
Her sire (father) is Black Daniels, a black stallion that is a U.S. National Champion and a Scottsdale Arabian Show Champion. Her dam (mother) is CP B Dazzled, a gray mare that comes from a long line of national champions.
“CP Classie Lea is very friendly with a great, playful personality,” Lambert said. “She loves when visitors stop by to see her at the horse center and loves to show off for them when she’s not taking a nap in the sun.”
Dopson is survived by her mother, who Gonzalez said was pleased someone would think to name a horse after her.
To those who knew Dopson, naming the foal after her is fitting tribute.
“Lea loved animals and was especially fond of horses,” said Professor Margie Ferree Jones, interim dean of The Collins College. “She was quite proud of the Arabian horse center here on campus and loved to tell new students about the center.”
“She would have been so touched, so honored,” Massa said. “She was a huge supporter of animal care organizations like the SPCA.”
Dopson also loved Cal Poly Pomona and students and would have been proud that a student came up with the name “Classie,” she added.
“It feels like a really fitting and lovely tribute to a friend that we all lost too soon,” Massa added.
Massa and Gonzalez have visited Classie Lea at the horse center.
“This is just a real great memorial for Lea. She did a lot on this campus,” Gonzalez said. “Her hospitality — that was what she was about: being friendly to people, always caring about people, bringing people together. She left a big void.”
“It’s bittersweet, but it kind of warms my heart to know we were able to do that one thing for Lea in the end,” she said.