OPINION: Gifts a big plus for UCSD’s future

By Light staff

A great big thank you is in order for people like Rita and Richard Atkinson, who last week pledged $5.7 million to fund graduate student fellowships at UCSD. The former UCSD chancellor and University of California president and his wife have direct knowledge of what the state’s shrinking budget is doing to the system and its students.

Armed with that knowledge and a particular concern for graduate students, they stepped forward with a gift to the “Invent the Future: The UC San Diego Student Support Campaign,” which aims to raise $50 million for undergrad scholarships and graduate fellowships. Their contribution will assist Ph.D. students in interdisciplinary studies in the sciences and related disciplines.

But they’re not alone in their generosity. In the last several months of the 2010 fiscal year, UCSD received pledges of more than $80 million from the Jacobs Family, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, Pauline Foster, the Seibel Foundation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Waitt Family Foundation, and Adele and Theodore Shank.

Some, like the Atkinsons’ gift, will help pay for fellowships; others, like the Jacobs Family’s, will build new facilities or support specialized research.

Ultimately, though, each one has a common bond: Furthering the success of UCSD and its students.

Fifty years ago when UCSD enrolled its first graduate students under the leadership of Roger Revelle the mission was clear: “Be distinctive.” Four years later, undergraduates arrived. With the maturing campus has come a change in the face of La Jolla and San Diego, bringing us world renown in the sciences and medicine, the arts and humanities as well as a new sense of diversity in our community.

Universities and colleges, private and public, depend on a variety of sources to elevate their stature, improve their facilities and to attract promising students and premier faculty members. Some come from research grants, some from fees, some from fundraising events, but to really make a mark and hold its position in the face of competition, the institution needs the backing of its community at large.

We applaud those who have already stepped forward and urge everyone in our community to think about UCSD if they are contemplating philanthropic efforts.

Even small contributions have a way of leaving an impression.

For information, go to

or to explore other areas of giving throughout the campus, go to


Here are gifts given to UCSD in the last few months of the 2009 fiscal year:

Jacobs family — $75 million

To be used by the UCSD Health System to build the Jacobs Medical Center on the east campus.

Gatsby Charitable Foundation — $4 million

A new consortium of four research teams from UCSD and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies will study neuronal circuits underlying higher brain function.

Pauline Foster — $2.5 million

To endow MBA student fellowships at The Rady School of Management at UCSD; of “Invent the Future: The UC San Diego Student Support Campaign.”

Siebel Foundation — $2 million

UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering will use the funds for fellowships for outstanding bioengineering graduate students.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure — $780,000

Researchers at the UCSD School of Medicine received funds to support two studies regarding estrogen levels and the behavior of breast cancer tumors.

Adele and Theodore Shank — $200,000

Funds from the critically acclaimed dramatists and distinguished faculty emeriti in the Department of Theatre and Dance at UCSD will establish the Adele and Theodore Shank Professional Playwriting Residency Award Fund to support students graduating with a master of fine arts in playwriting.

Waitt Family Foundation

Funds for The Whole Brain Catalog developed by UCSD Center for Research in Biological Systems. The groundbreaking, open-source, 3-D virtual environment connects members of the international neuroscience community to pioneer brain research.