Adolfo "Rudy" Vargas,

Adolfo Vargas, more commonly known to his friends and family as "Rudy" and "Bugs," was a filmmaker, educator and activist.

The Diamond Bar, CA, resident died Thursday at the age of 67 from complications following emergency surgery to combat a staph infection.

The East Los Angeles native graduated from Garfield High School. He served in the armed forces before attending Los Angeles State College, now Cal State Los Angeles, where his activism really began.

"Rudy came of age professionally and personally in the cauldron of the Chicano movement," said longtime friend Luis Torres.

Vargas advocated for the creation of a Chicano-studies department and organized protests and demonstrations against the Vietnam War and for Chicano rights.

"It drove his perspective. He was very active in the movement and the human-rights effort in general. It was his optimism and compassion that drove everything that he did," Torres said.

After graduating, he became coordinator of the newly created Educational Opportunity Program on the campus, a program that helped poor and minority students gain access to higher education.

He moved on to pursue another passion, earning a Master of Fine Arts degree from UCLA's School of Film and Television.

He worked on various film and television projects, from educational shows to documentaries, where he still was able to inject his passion for social change into many projects.

"Rudy was a dedicated media artist and a passionate advocate for social justice," said Jesus Salvador Treviño, a veteran film and television director and longtime friend, through a statement.

"I've lost a great friend, and the Chicano community has lost a champion in the struggle for dignity and justice. Rudy was one of the most personable, likeable guys you could ever meet."

Vargas retired recently from Cal Poly Pomona, where he had been executive producer of the Instructional and Information Technology Learning department for 17 years.

Karen Brzoska, associate director of the department, remembers Vargas as a compassionate, caring adviser.

"His concern for others and the way he would reach out to people--colleagues and students," she adds. "He was not only quick with a smile, but he was anxious to engage everyone in conversation. It was such a pleasure to know him and work with him."

Hart remembered how Vargas had the unique ability to bring people together and make a difference in many people's lives.

"He added a human touch to everything he did," Torres said. "He was a mentor to the students at Cal Poly. Just by example, he showed that being concerned and compassionate was the way to go."

Vargas is survived by his mother; three brothers and three sisters; his wife of 26 years, Julene; five children; and eight grandchildren.

"Even as he's gone, he's still bringing people together," Hart said.

"He taught us all how to have compassion and love each other, and we will miss him dearly."

To honor Rudy's memory, the Vargas family asks that donations be made to Xela Aid, a nonprofit organization that runs schools in the highlands of Guatemala.

Vargas was a board member of that organization and produced a documentary film about one of the schools, which was named after his youngest daughter, Raquel.

Xela Aid can be contacted at P.O. Box 923, Malibu, CA 90265 or at

By Juan Castillo, WHITTIER DAILY NEWS, Whittier, CA, June 5, 2009