Classmates of Rogers State University graduate Juan Legarreta dedicated a memorial bench and plaque in his honor on June 27, a year after he died of a sudden illness.
Members of the RSU Criminal Justice Society raised money for the cast-iron memorial plaque, which is affixed to a bench donated by the university. The bench was placed in front of Preparatory Hall, where the criminal justice program is housed, and overlooks the city of Claremore, where Legarreta spent his formative years.
Legarreta, a justice administration major, helped establish the Criminal Justice Society and acted as its first president.
“He was a great guy,” said Heidi Lyons, a member of the Criminal Justice Society and a fellow criminal justice administration major. “He had goals. He was very driven.”
Legarreta joined the Jenks Police Department after graduating from RSU in 2009 and started work on a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa. He was one semester shy of completing his master’s degree when he died at the age of 27.
Jenks Police Commander Paul Rinkel spoke at the event and remembered Legarreta as a dedicated and talented officer. “Officers come and go in law enforcement, but every once in a while you get one that stands out, that is going places. Juan was one of those guys,” Rinkel said.
Attending the memorial’s dedication were more than 80 RSU faculty, staff and students as well as Legarreta’s parents, Juan F. Legarreta-Lopez and Lourdes Legarreta, and his sister Yamile, who graduated from RSU just a month before he died. His sister, Joan Legarreta, was unable to attend.
“It’s an honor to us and to the family to have his classmates come forward to do this for Juan,” his father said. “It shows not only love for him, but also respect for him as a person and a student. He really enjoyed his time here at the university. It means a lot to the family to have this memorial.”
Katy Navarro, now an educational specialist at RSU’s Educational Opportunity Center and a former classmate of Legarreta, organized the memorial dedication and spoke of Legarreta’s impact on her life. “He just had a presence. He could demand an audience just by walking into the room,” she said. “Let this bench now and forever serve as a testament to what he lived for.”