Supporters Like You
Photo: David Schmitz
Connie Moore Honors SJSU with Transformative Future Bequest
When Connie Moore, ‘77 business administration, was an undergraduate student at San José State, one of her professors encouraged her to apply for an internship at a real estate investment trust (REIT) in San Francisco. That nugget of encouragement would shape the rest of Connie’s career and transform her life.
She decided to apply and ended up getting the internship at the real estate company, BRE Properties, Inc., Connie was hired full-time six months later upon graduating from SJSU, joining two other interns with MBAs from Stanford.
Connie’s performance was so impressive that the company leaders entrusted her with one of its most troubled assets. Weeks into her new role, Connie was flying first-class across the country to Memphis, Tennessee, to develop a budget and a strategic plan for the property to reduce, if possible, the $6 million expected loss.
After working at BRE Properties for six years and quickly moving up the ranks, Connie left the company for another opportunity, only to return 20 years later as its president, CEO, and member of the Board of Directors. She was only the third CEO in BRE Properties’ history, and would serve in that role for close to a decade before merging the company with another REIT in 2014.
“Becoming a CEO never crossed my mind growing up,” Connie said. “I didn’t even know what a CEO was. SJSU provided me the skills and the confidence to imagine that anything was possible, which is why I’m so appreciative of the school. I know what an extraordinary difference SJSU made in my life”
Because of the significant impact that her time at SJSU had on her career and life, Connie has been a loyal supporter of her alma mater and is heavily involved in SJSU affairs. Since 2007, Connie has been a member of the Tower Foundation Board of Directors, twice serving as its Chair. She has also attended numerous leadership, fundraising, and networking events hosted by the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business and the SJSU Alumni Association.
Recently, Connie made provisions for a substantial future gift to SJSU through her estate by naming the Tower Foundation of SJSU as an estate beneficiary. The unrestricted funds will be used for scholarships, research, or facilities, giving the university president broad flexibility to fulfill the most pressing initiatives or needs across campus.
Connie said she made the gift unrestricted because she recognized that California’s public universities, such as San José State, are no longer fully state-funded. These days, they are “state-supported” or only partially funded, which means funding gaps must be filled through other means.
Connie’s gift will help ensure future SJSU students will have the financial support they need to pay for their education and go on to transform their lives as Connie’s SJSU degree did for her.
The gift is not the first gift Connie and her husband, Roger Greer, have made to SJSU. Earlier they created an endowment, in honor of her professor that suggested she apply for the internship at BRE, for the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.
Giving to SJSU is simply Connie’s way of passing on the good fortune she received from the university so students can benefit for years to come.
“It’s never been about me,” Connie said. “It’s all about: What does this school need to achieve its mission? And how does SJSU help to transform students’ lives?”
SJSU Alumni and Former Faculty Carl and Valerie Sermon Establish Endowments for Public Health and Mechanical Engineering
It makes sense that Carl and Valerie Sermon first met while volunteering as tutors at San José State University. Introduced by the university’s first ombudsman and Methodist minister Benton White, the couple shared a love for learning and teaching that has endured more than 50 years.
To recognize the role education played in their lives, and to create opportunities for the next generation of Spartans, the couple included a provision in their living trust to establish two $100,000 endowments at San José State. One endowment will provide annual scholarships for students of any major within the College of Health and Human Sciences’ Department of Public Health, and the other will create annual scholarships for graduate students in mechanical engineering at the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.
Robert Clothier, then the chair of SJSU’s mechanical engineering department, facilitated the opportunity for Carl to join the Lawrence Radiation Lab while he was an undergraduate. After completing his graduate degree, Carl worked at General Electric Nuclear and IBM.
“As a graduate student, SJSU helped me get a teaching job and research grants to help me pay my living expenses,” says Carl, ’69 BS, ’73 MS, Mechanical Engineering. “It was a decisive moment in my life. We feel it’s time to pay it forward.”
Valerie, ’72 Social Work, ’77 MPH, serendipitously found her love of teaching at San José State, which was sparked by an invitation from a professor to teach health sciences. After receiving her MBA from Pepperdine University and EdD from the University of Southern California, she had a fulfilling career teaching at a number of Bay Area colleges and universities. She later served as director of SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business’ graduate business programs, established the Small Business Development Center of Silicon Valley, and was the director of NASA’s internship program.
Along the way, Valerie began practicing, performing and teaching bellydance — an outlet that became especially important to her when both she and Carl were diagnosed with cancer a few months apart from each other. She says that recovering and healing became personal pathways to share with dance students — a lesson she’d learned during her graduate work at SJSU, where she focused on health promotion and maintenance.
These experiences made the Sermons reflect on their legacy and the opportunities they could create for others.
“Our lives as cancer survivors solidified our desire to give back,” says Carl. “We were already considering giving to the university, but once we had survived cancer, we could see the benefits of helping others financially.”
Valerie adds that surviving the COVID-19 pandemic inspired them to review and update their commitment to San José State.
“Between surviving cancer and living through COVID, we’ve engaged in major reassessments of our lives,” says Valerie. “This year has inspired many to revise their trusts and wills, as well as advanced health care directives. When you see what resources you may need in the future, you can have that conversation to see what you can earmark for others.”
Now retired, the couple have a studio in Los Gatos where Valerie teaches bellydance and Carl has made a second career as a performance photographer. They travel extensively to teach dance and photograph performances at many festivals across the U.S. and abroad.
“San José State supported us when we had great needs,” says Valerie. “Looking back on our lives and reflecting upon our experiences and the education we received, we realized it was time to support and give back.”
Patricia McKinney’s Gift for Future Elementary Educators
A native of San José, Patricia McKinney, ’60 General Elementary Education, ‘64 MA Education, dedicated her career to teaching elementary school. Upon graduating from San José State, she accepted her first teaching job in the Hillview/Menlo School District, briefly taught at an Air Force base in Germany when her husband was stationed there, and worked for many years in the Laguna Salada Union Elementary school district in Pacifica.
She recognized the importance of early education and wants to provide assistance to underserved students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to become a teacher. That’s why she established a $1.8 million planned gift naming SJSU as a designated beneficiary of her investment accounts to support students majoring in elementary education in SJSU’s Connie L. Lurie College of Education.
“I loved working with kids and going home at night knowing that I’ve made a difference,” said McKinney from her home in San Francisco. She recalls teaching multiple generations of the same families, running into her students’ parents who remembered her fondly from their own elementary school days.
“She thought SJSU had prepared her well and it was important to her to help other people become teachers, especially grade school teachers,” said her friend Priscilla Robertson.
“Ms. McKinney’s gift to San José State exemplifies her commitment to service,” said Theresa Davis, vice president of University Advancement and CEO of the Tower Foundation. “Not only did she teach generations of children across the Bay Area, her scholarship will support future elementary educators. We are grateful for Ms. McKinney’s example.”
Barbara Bekins, Paul Byrd and the Gift of Teaching
An Air Force veteran who served in the Tuskegee Airmen’s 99th Pursuit Squadron — the first Black military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps — Byrd became an aeronautical research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center.
During the 1950s, he headed the Palo Alto chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He began teaching at San José State in 1959 and became an associate professor in 1974 after retiring from NASA.
Byrd was a pioneer of pure and applied mathematics in an era when historic and institutionalized racism limited opportunities for people of color in STEM fields. This showed Bekins, who was also forging new territory as a woman in science, that it is possible to overcome great adversity in work — and in life. She, too, could contribute to her field and inspire others along the way.
A longtime supporter of SJSU scholarships and STEM activities for women and girls, Bekins wants to create opportunities for aspiring mathematicians, scientists and educators from diverse backgrounds. That’s why she has designated the Paul F. Byrd Scholarship Endowment in the College of Science as a beneficiary of her retirement plan.
“The Paul Byrd Fund is a student scholarship targeted for underrepresented minorities, so it aligns with my long-term priorities for supporting scholarships,” says Bekins. “Math is a gateway to a lot of sciences. There aren’t a lot of jobs for people with a bachelor’s in math except for teaching, and it would certainly be great if we had more diverse math teachers for kids in the classroom.”
Bekins put her own math degrees to work at the United States Geological Survey, where she has dedicated her career to researching the biodegradation of groundwater contaminants. She also dedicated many years to helping lead SJSU’s Expanding Your Horizons conference, which offers hands-on STEM learning on campus for middle-school and high-school girls — an opportunity she would have loved as a child.
For Bekins, there are few things as important as providing access to high-quality education for every child, regardless of gender, race, or nationality. Supporting the Paul F. Byrd Endowment was the next logical step in helping her achieve this goal. It only occurred to her that she could do so after her husband established legacy gifts with a few nonprofits using his 401k and IRA retirement accounts. By giving to an already established scholarship endowment, Bekins is multiplying the impact of her mentor’s legacy.
“It’s nice to remember the professors who made a difference to you, particularly those who have already created funds to support students,” says Bekins. “A little bit of money goes a long way.”
Whether or not she knows it, Bekins is also proof — evidence that women in STEM can make a lasting difference in the field and at San José State.
SJSU Alumnus and Faculty Member Joseph Di Salvo’s Pursuit of Justice
San José State Justice Studies Lecturer Joseph Di Salvo, ’73 Sociology, ’74 Teaching Credential, ’82 MA Education, landed his first job teaching at the Osborne School in Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Juvenile Hall in 1974.
Di Salvo dedicated five decades of his life to public service, including 33 years as a teacher and school administrator, three years as a personnel commissioner for the Santa Clara County Office of Education, eight years as a citizen representative to the San José Arena Authority and since 2008 he is a publicly-elected member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education, representing 145,000 registered voters and their children.
In recent years, he has taught courses in the graduate school of education and most recently the justice studies department in the College of Social Sciences at San José State.
As he was teaching youth in juvenile halls or exploring education policy at the regional and state level, Di Salvo witnessed how powerful it was for underrepresented students to learn from educators and civic leaders who look like them, sound like them and come from similar backgrounds. Teaching at San José State further fueled his desire to encourage diverse, low-income and first-generation students interested in these issues to pursue higher education — and make their dreams a reality.
“Half of my Justice Studies students are going into law enforcement or related fields, and if they can be sensitive to issues of race and gender inequality, they’re going to be better community advocates,” he says.
Di Salvo and his wife, SJSU Public Relations Lecturer Christine Di Salvo, ’84 Public Relations, ’02 MPA, approached SJSU’s Planned Giving team to discuss how they could make an impact. Ultimately, they decided to create, via their living trust, a future scholarship for underrepresented students majoring in Justice Studies.
“Whether they do that through teaching, law enforcement or working with community task forces, I hope I can help those who wish to have an impact.
“My message for other donors is this: Take your passion about the world and see how a gift to SJSU could accelerate or launch that passion for others. I am privileged to be able to create this scholarship; it is the very, very small role I play in changing the world.”
Thomas Layton and the Gift of History
In 1984, San José State Emeritus Professor of Anthropology Thomas Layton was excavating a Mitom Pomo Indian village along the Mendocino coast in northern California when he made a startling discovery: Buried among the sand and rocks were a number of Chinese porcelain objects and shards of green glass.
For Layton, history is an essential part of the human experience. That’s why, in addition to his career as a professor and academic, he has dedicated more than 34 years to managing and curating the Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History at San José State.
He invests time and money into purchasing images for the collection, making history tangible for future generations, while giving generously to SJSU activities and programming that he cares about like the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. He also named the Sourisseau Academy as the remainder beneficiary of his retirement account. This allows him to witness the impact of his contributions while setting aside any residual in his IRA to support his desired purpose.
“In my research as a historical archeologist, I’ve depended upon archives — the Society of California Pioneers, the California State Library, the National Archives, the Peabody Museum at the Salem and Massachusetts Historical Society, among others,” he said. “I became aware of the value of these repositories where families and others have donated their papers and their photographs for somebody in the future to use in their research.”
The Sourisseau Academy was established by Eva Sourisseau in 1971 to archive a written and visual history of the Santa Clara Valley, including business records, family letters, organizational papers, travel journals, photographs and personal diaries.
Layton became involved as a young professor, when he was recruited to join the academy’s board. Over the years, he has cultivated a community of patrons, together with whom he has purchased more than 70,000 historic images for the collection.
“One of the best ways to see the direct effect of your donation is to give to specific projects that you care about,” he said. “I wanted to feel the satisfaction of seeing that something I’ve done has made a difference.”
Janice Bremis Establishes Nursing Scholarship in Honor of Her “Nursing Family”
During her second year at San José State, Janice Bremis, ’78 Liberal Studies, passed out while walking to class in MacQuarrie Hall. At six feet tall, she weighed only 90 lbs. For three years, Bremis had grown progressively sicker, nearly dying before taking a semester off to get treatment. Bremis and her family felt very fortunate to find Dr. Katherine Halmi of the University of Iowa Hospital, which housed one of the earliest research programs dedicated to eating disorders.
They credit Dr. Halmi and her staff, as well as the nurses and doctors she has encountered in the years since, for helping Bremis recover. In an effort to support future nurses, Bremis has named San José State as a beneficiary in her estate, establishing the Janice E. Bremis Nursing Scholarship as a permanent endowment to provide scholarships to undergraduate nursing students, especially those transferring from community college.
“I have benefited from nursing all my life, between my injuries and my longtime eating disorder,” says Bremis. She started working in hospitals at age 17 to pay for college, and has dedicated 40 years to working in healthcare with nurses and healthcare professionals. “My hat goes off to nurses. They are my heroes. There will always be a need for hero nurses.”
In 2006, Bremis resolved to create a space for those struggling with and recovering from eating disorders. And thus the Eating Disorders Resource Center of Silicon Valley was born, a place where community members can join support groups, search for local resources, partner with healthcare providers to provide up-to-date information on eating disorder symptoms and treatment and lobby the government for better healthcare coverage. Through her more than 30 years fundraising for nonprofits, Bremis realized that she could expand her impact in healthcare by supporting the next generation of nurses.
“While ensuring for the well-being of your family, you can also designate a specific amount or percentage of your estate, however modest, to your favorite non-profit,” says Bremis. “These funds will help improve the quality of lives of your families, friends, neighbors and the greater community. I am inspired by the legacy of my many San José State University alumni who have recognized the value of giving back by investing in the future of our next generation.”
Carol Christensen: For the Love of Libraries
Carol Christensen, ’63 Women’s Physical Education, remembers the day she fell in love with San José State’s library. Her sorority required that she dedicate certain hours of every week to studying in what was then the library’s reserved books room.
She recalls staring at a painting of a storm at sea, contemplating where her career in physical education would take her. Would she be a P.E. teacher, a scientist, an academic? Little did she know, she’d become all three, once she’d laid the foundation at San José State. “I started loving the library because if libraries can provide you with a quiet place to study and a gorgeous picture to look up at while you’re thinking, they must be worth a lot,” says Christensen.
Originally from Los Angeles, Christensen was attracted to San José State’s women’s physical education program, which was at the time one of the best in the state. Exercise science combined her passions of physical activity and the mechanics behind how bodies move. The first in her family to graduate from college, Christensen earned a master’s degree in ergonomics from UC Santa Barbara and a doctorate in health, physical education from the University of Utah. When it was time to find a faculty job, Christensen returned to her alma mater. She dedicated 25 years to SJSU, serving as a professor, assistant dean and dean of the College of the Applied Sciences and Arts before retiring in 2004. In retirement, she earmarked a percentage of the residual of her estate that is in her trust, equivalent to $200,000, for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library at San José State.
“The university gave me the basis of my career–and my career,” she says. “It provided me with a very high quality of life in retirement. The library is used by all students, and because it’s a city-university partnership, it benefits the public as well. I give to the university because it gave me so much. There’s no reason not to give back.”
John and Carmen Aitken Establish Business Scholarship
John and Carmen Aitken’s love story started on the ski slopes at Squaw Valley in 1963. John, ’54 Business Administration, had been a Spartan student leader, active in the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and student body president before being commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy, where he was honorably discharged as a lieutenant five years later.
Carmen had been living in San Francisco and was learning to ski when she crashed into John as he was waiting to ascend the ski lift, puncturing his jacket with her ski pole. She offered to repair the jacket, later returning it to him with a makeshift patch. Within a year they were married. Throughout their 52 years together, John would often share his memories of San José State, which Carmen describes as “among the happiest times of his life.” Late in life, he established the John M. Aitken Business Scholarship Award for undergraduates in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business. A few years after his death, Carmen accelerated the bequest to help students now.
“I care about the university because John cared about the university, and anything that was near and dear to his heart became near and dear to my heart as well,” says Carmen. “John was the love and joy of my life for 52 years. He enjoyed his four years at SJSU so much. His time there, his interactions with professors, staff and student body helped shape who he became.”
For 26 years, John sold advertising for CBS radio and television and NBC and was inducted into the Northern California Broadcast Legends Organization Hall of Fame in 1990. He wanted to encourage students to study business, be active in student government and engage with their communities.
“I would like recipients of the John M. Aitken Business Scholarship Award to do well and be mindful that someone at some time helped them along their life’s journey and that, if possible, they should continue the tradition of giving back if they are in a position to do so,” she says. “I admire people who give their time, talent and treasures to education, philanthropy or community engagement.”
Ann and Sheffield Clarke Believe in the Next Generation
Every semester for the past 45 years, Ann and Sheffield Clarke have watched San José State graduates walking in cap and gown down their street following commencement ceremonies. An alumna of SJSU’s graduate program in criminal justice studies and veteran of Santa Clara County’s Probation Department, Ann is a strong believer in the transformative power of higher education.
Sheffield, a retired entrepreneur and marketing professional, shares her belief in the next generation. Together they have established two charitable gift annuities with San José State to support future Spartans pursuing their degrees.
“The biggest investment for San José is San José State—the 35,000 students who attend and graduate with degrees,” says Sheffield. “They are going to contribute to society. You can look at it from a financial standpoint, a social standpoint, an educational standpoint. It’s all positive.”
Originally from the East Coast, the Clarkes moved to San José in 1975 and raised three children downtown, not far from campus. They witnessed how challenging it could be for first-time college students to stay in school. The Clarkes created their first charitable gift annuity of $50,000 with SJSU in 2012 and designated the remainder to create an endowment for a university-wide scholarship.
“Through one of our son’s friends we experienced firsthand how lack of support in a crisis can cause a kid to consider leaving college,” says Ann. “A timely helping hand can keep a young person going on a difficult path.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced additional obstacles for SJSU students, especially those who have lost work, had to relocate or care for family members. In spring 2020, the Clarkes established a $100,000 charitable gift annuity and designated the remainder to the SJSU Student Crisis Support Fund, with the hopes of assisting students facing future emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to supporting causes they care about, charitable gift annuities also provide them with a guaranteed income for life and tax advantages.
“There are so many first-generation students at San José State, and that’s critically important,” says Sheffield. “This particular fund attracted us because if there’s a serious student who has the capability to pursue their degree but runs into a problem, we want to make sure that person stays in school and graduates. That’s the most important thing because education provides the keys to the kingdom.”
Shelley and Chris Swircek Set Up a Springboard for New Teachers
Shelley and Christopher Swircek share a passion for gymnastics, coaching and teaching. Their planned gift to the Connie L. Lurie College of Education will give future SJSU teachers a leg up.
When Chris retired from coaching gymnastics last year, the Swirceks decided to support the university.
“We knew what we wanted to do,” Chris said. “We both went to San José State, and it had a huge impact on our lives. The value of our education wasn’t just in what we’re taught in the classroom. It’s the way professors at San José State interact with students. They care.”
The Shelley and Chris Swircek Endowment for Education will provide multiple scholarships for students preparing to become teachers. Establishing a bequest to the Lurie College of Education was “a very easy process,” Shelley said. “Chris and I are young, but we have always thought ahead. We’re planners,” Shelley said. “I think that put us where we are right now.”
Shelley taught first, second and third grade at Tom Matsumoto Elementary School in Evergreen School District. In 2007, the tutoring practice she operated out of a one-room office bloomed into what became Silver Creek Academy, a successful business that provides year-round academic support: tutoring, small group courses, themed camps and test prep.
“The motivation for our gift comes largely from Shelley’s being a teacher educated at San José State,” Chris added. “We both believe in education. We know the value of it. We’re able to give other people the opportunity to have that chance.”
Shelley always wanted to be a teacher. “Teachers have made a difference in my life,” she said. “Going to San José State was a wonderful experience. I want to provide the opportunity for other teachers to follow their dreams.”
While at SJSU, Chris was on the gymnastics team, and as a gymnastics coach for 15 years at Stanford he taught, mentored and trained 53 All-Americans and three national champions. Shelley once ranked third in the nation and earned a spot on the U.S. National Team.
“We wanted to be able to do some good in the world, so there’s some continued benefit from our hard work,” Chris said. “Hopefully it’s going to help a lot of people, and we’ll maybe make the world slightly better.”
Michelle Sandler and Robert Altman: King Library Support
Michelle G. Sandler feels most at home in a library–surrounded by well-organized information accessible to others.
“I spent most of my life living in libraries, whether I was working in them or not,” says Sandler, ’93 MLIS. “I really liked library school.” Sandler described the feeling of building up a library collection as “euphoria.”
Sandler and her husband Robert D. Altman made SJSU the recipient of a gift for $250,000 in their living trust. Half will go to scholarships for students in San Jose State’s School of Information (iSchool), and half will support student research in the Library Research Scholars Program at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. “When I heard about the program with King Library, student intensive research,” she said, “I thought that sounds like something I would like to support too.”
Sandler and Altman make annual gifts to support the School of Information Alumni and Friends Scholarship, and they decided to arrange a planned gift as well. “I want to help out the iSchool specifically because I don’t want to see the profession tank, I want to see it thrive,” Sandler said. “There’s always going to be a need for a library. Library science is changing, with artificial intelligence and automation,” she explained. “And I want to see the field survive – however it evolves as a field.”
Sandler was a librarian at Westwood College (Anaheim campus) for 12 years, and for the past eight years was a librarian for her synagogue, Temple Beth David. A “passionate” specialist in Judaica and Jewish genealogy and longtime president of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Orange County, Sandler has assisted numerous institutions with her expertise for more than 30 years. “I have about 3,850 books in my catalog,” she said, “including the 215 volumes in my garage.” She described how she views her chosen profession: “To help guide people to the right places.”
“Michelle likes the idea of supporting scholarships because she thinks everyone should have an opportunity like she had,” added Altman, who worked at Boeing and graduated from UC Irvine’s engineering school. “And why now? Why not now? Now is the time to think about it, not after we’re gone.”
“My world is libraries,” Sandler added, “Maybe I can make a difference.”
You can join Michelle and Robert leaving a legacy at San Jose State. Help us realize the university’s potential as a nationally prominent urban public university with a gift in your will or a gift that pays you income to support the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library and benefit current and future Spartans. Learn how you can make a legacy gift at Legacy.sjsu.edu.
Benton White and Mary Lou Bloomberg
When Benton White and his wife Mary Lou Bloomberg moved to San Jose State in 1961 to start a campus ministry, they did not anticipate dedicating more than 30 years to the campus community, which was in a state of change. White served as the nation’s first university ombudsman and founded the university’s Department of Comparative Religious Studies, where he taught for decades.
Following their retirement, White and Bloomberg decided to bequeath a gift to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library to provide long-term support to the library and maintain resources for the benefit of the Comparative Religious Studies program at San Jose State.
As San Jose State’s minister, White became active in the local civil rights movement, which attracted the eye of then-President Robert Clark. In 1967, as student activists spoke out about housing discrimination, the segregation of fraternities and sororities, and improved conditions for students of all backgrounds, Clark appointed White as ombudsman to serve as a liaison between students and the administration. White made civil rights a priority in his college days at the University of Alabama and as an Air Force chaplain in Lincoln, Nebraska.
One of his first meetings was with then-sociology lecturer Harry Edwards, ’64 Sociology, ’16 Honorary Doctorate.
“Harry wanted to know why this white man from Alabama had been appointed as ombudsman during a time of such racial turmoil,” says White. “He said he didn’t know what to think. But I listened and he gave me time and together we worked hard. Harry was a hero of mine in many respects.”
During the 1967-1968 academic year, White traveled across the United States, giving talks about his newly created role and how campus leaders could facilitate productive conversations. His wife was busy at home with two young sons, but that year remains in their memory as the beginning of something important.
White helped create the religious studies department in 1970 and dedicated many years to teaching. Throughout his tenure, White stayed active on campus committees, as well as athletics and in his church. Whether they were advocating for social change in the Midwest or galvanizing support for underrepresented students in San Jose, White and Bloomberg’s life have had a life of service.
“The religious studies program was an important part of why I wanted to leave money to the library,” says White. “SJSU was my life for decades and it’s a wonderful university.”
“We came to San Jose in 1961—and nearly 60 years later, we’re still here,” says Bloomberg. “We felt that San Jose State was the right place for us to leave a legacy.”
Nicholas Taddeo Jr., ’69
The year that Nicholas Taddeo Jr. graduated from San Jose State, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. Though Taddeo, ’69 Math, was too busy working to watch the historic moment in real time, the promise of space exploration kept him inspired throughout his 40-year career in software.
In recent years, Taddeo recognized the lack of diversity in his field, and when he learned about planned gift opportunities at SJSU, he seized the chance to create professional opportunities for women and people of color, who are often underrepresented in science.
“I realized that I had the chance to establish a legacy,” says Taddeo. “By designating SJSU as a beneficiary of my estate, I am creating something with societal impact. My hope is that I can have some small effect steering the ship of software development toward a more inclusive future.”
Taddeo established a scholarship to support students pursuing computer science, with special consideration given to participants of Girls Who Code, Women in Engineering, as well as returning students whose studies had been interrupted while they raised families.
He was pleased to discover that a beneficiary designation supersedes provisions of a will. Establishing the gift itself was straightforward—Taddeo directed several accounts to SJSU via beneficiary designation, while leaving the rest to heirs through his unchanged will.
“Right now, I’m living on the dividends and interest earned by the money I’ve aimed at San Jose State,” says Taddeo. “I am able to live off the proceeds, and by establishing SJSU as a beneficiary, it’s fairly easy to create a legacy.”
Since retiring from tech, Taddeo has volunteered as a tutor with Project Second Chance, a Contra Costa County initiative to support English language learners, and Senior Scholars, which pairs seniors with middle school and elementary school students. Both experiences have reinforced his decision to support higher education.
“I encourage people to consider giving, whether it be during your lifetime or after you’re gone,” says Taddeo. “We can only run a planet with people who learn things. Education is key.”
Taddeo looks forward to the day that humans explore space’s outer limits. Perhaps his gift will support the next women astronauts to explore the solar system.
Mark and Kathy Loveless: Rewarding Spartan Service
Mark and Kathy Loveless moved to San Jose from Virginia in the mid-1970s. High school sweethearts who married at 18, Mark had enlisted in the military while Kathy studied medical technology. After his honorable discharge, Mark studied with Kathy in Virginia until she graduated, at which point they loaded up their Plymouth Fury and drove west.
Though Mark’s G.I. Bill helped pay for college, the 22-year-old was motivated to get through college quickly.
“I was married and I had a pregnant wife,” says Mark, ’78 Accounting. “I took up to 20 units a semester so I could get through college in three years and a semester. Three days after I took my last final, I was working at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where I stayed for 22 years as an assurance partner in their technology sector. After a brief stint as a CFO at a software company, I returned to public accounting as a managing partner at Burr Pilger Mayer. I ended up having a 35-year accounting career, which I wouldn’t have had without San Jose State. That’s one of the reasons we felt it important to give back.”
Accounting offered Mark stability and helped him build skills in sales, marketing, business and finance. Kathy worked as a medical technologist at Good Samaritan Hospital while they raised two daughters. After they retired, the longtime annual supporters of SJSU established the Mark and Kathy Loveless Scholarship for service members and military veterans in the accounting department.
“San Jose State gave us a good life and we wanted to aid those who have done service for our country and now need help continuing their studies so they can go on to be productive citizens,” says Kathy.
After meeting scholarship recipients and seeing the difference their support made, Mark and Kathy provided a provision in their estate plan to permanently endow the fund. Veterans and service members will continue to benefit from their generosity for years to come.
“Generally, veterans or service members are in their 20s, and chances are, they have been on their own for a while,” says Mark. “They may be further along in their lives so it’s harder for them to take off the time to get an education. I remember how scarce the money was when we were doing it. Hopefully our scholarship helps.”
Richard Sessions: Removing Obstacles For a Better Future
Richard Sessions is a career businessperson, leader of a $400 million marketing organization, entrepreneur and lecturer in San Jose State’s School of Information Systems and Technology at the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business. Sessions has a learning disability, dyslexia, that makes it difficult to read and process speech—which challenged him as a student and has now informed his teaching style. His late daughter also struggled with dyslexia. As a result, he recognizes and helps San Jose State students in his classes who confront similar invisible obstacles to learning.
“Somebody with a disability has to work doubly hard, triply hard on their education. Often they can’t work and pursue a college education at the same time. This potentially creates an economic burden,” he says. “That’s when I realized that I have the ability to give these students an opportunity for a better future.”
Sessions knew he wanted to create opportunities for Spartans living with learning difficulties, but wasn’t sure where to start.
“The best way to get started with giving is to meet with the people in University Advancement,” he says. “They provide excellent advice on the best approach to helping students while meeting your giving goals.”
After discussing his options, Sessions decided to establish a scholarship at the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business for students with disabilities through the Accessible Education Center by designating San Jose State beneficiary in his retirement plan. He sees the opportunity to support Spartans living with disabilities as a way to shed light on the otherwise invisible problems some students face.
“This scholarship is recognition of a potentially underserved student population that people don’t think of,” he says. “You cannot always see learning disabilities. Sometimes students don’t even know they have a disability. When we think of disabilities, we think of have ramps for wheelchairs. Where are the ramps for dyslexics?”
Sessions envisions the future recipients of the AEC scholarship finding the resources they need to achieve in school and beyond. His message for students with disabilities reflects his experience as a dyslexic student, businessperson and parent: “Most dyslexics are bright, but they run into this learning roadblock,” he says. “Yes, you have to try harder. Don’t let that hold you back.”
“I identify with San Jose State students, and now I have the ability to give these Spartans opportunity for a better future.”
Gary and Eileen Ruppel: Education’s Impact on Society
Gary and Eileen Ruppel fell in love while volunteering in San Jose’s East Side Union High School District as part of an industrial school partnership sponsored by Hewlett Packard, their employer. A career human resources manager, Gary was drawn to Eileen, an HR training and education specialist and former kindergarten and preschool teacher who to this day believes that “the stronger the community is with education, with its infrastructure and with caring for its people, the stronger everyone will be.”
Together Gary and Eileen realized that by investing in education, they could multiply their impact on the community.
“Education has always been a central focus for our family,” says Gary, ’64 Business Administration, ’66 MBA. “To be a well-rounded student, you need to see what’s going on in your community, how you might contribute. It’s best to learn that early.”
Throughout his 35-year career at HP, Gary never forgot the value of his San Jose State education. At the time that he pursued his degrees, he lived in married student housing opposite Spartan Stadium (now CEFCU Stadium, Home of the Spartans). Rent was $37.50 a month and tuition averaged $35 a semester. He juggled part-time work while raising two young children and completing his studies. Meanwhile, Eileen pursued her education in Colorado, thanks to the support of her parents and student loans. Both believe that affordable education is the bedrock of creating healthy, sustainable communities—which is why they have decided to give back to San Jose State.
“Knowledge is power,” says Gary. “Education contributes broadly to global economics, gender equality, health, good governance and stability.”
By establishing a charitable gift annuity at San Jose State, they are creating opportunities for future Spartans—students and faculty members alike—while receiving tax benefits and guaranteed payments for life. Gary says that funding the gift with highly appreciated securities (investments that have increased in value from the time they were purchased) provides them with a tax deduction, allows them to reduce their tax holdings and lessens their exposure to market fluctuations. They receive a guaranteed annual income while San Jose State is provided with a significant future gift.
“From our perspective, everyone wins,” says Gary. “We can gain satisfaction in supporting education, which is something we are passionate about. I received a quality education from SJSU at a bargain price, which contributed greatly to the success I achieved in my career. This gift gives us much personal satisfaction.”
“We hope our gift encourages some students to take advantage of opportunities to develop skills that will favorably impact them and the society in which they live,” says Eileen.
“Community service has always been important to us.”
“Education is an investment in our communities, in the future and in young people.”
When Joe Thomas attended San Jose State, it was the first time in his life that he was surrounded by people who shared common interests and goals, and who were motivated to succeed. He says that this passion and commitment were as important as technical skills. Like many other students, Thomas had to work to put himself through school.
“I didn’t have time for the experience of being in a fraternity, going to football games or all the other social activities college offers,” says Thomas, ’90 Aerospace Engineering.
Since pursuing a successful career in aerospace, Thomas decided to create a bequest in his living trust that will afford students that campus life experience. Through scholarships and support of other student needs in aviation and technology, his bequest will give students opportunities for exciting careers. It will also ensure the continuation of the aviation program—important given that SJSU was the only public university that offered such a program when he attended.
When Thomas meets fellow donors at SJSU events, he is reminded of the sense of family he felt when he was a student. That’s why he has started to fund the scholarship now, so he can personally experience giving it to a student—another member of the San Jose State family.
“Getting reconnected to San Jose State as a donor has exceeded my expectations,” he says. “I only wish I had done this years ago.”
When Donn Burch attended SJSU in the late 1960s, his college days were not carefree. He had to work his way through school—tuition and books were his financial concern. The businessman wanted to make it easier for current students to receive a great education.
“Because of my excellent professors, I’ve been successful and am able to give back to the school that did so much for me,” says Burch, ’72 Business.
With state support drastically reduced from when he was in college, he believes that the need for private contributions is even more critical. Burch has backed up that belief with action.
He has already endowed three scholarships, one in business and two that honor family members. Burch honored his mother with a named scholarship in the School of Music and established another for students studying physical therapy that honors his late brother, whose life was cut short at age 18.
Burch has made provisions through his estate to add significantly to these funds. He also has provisions to establish two charitable gift annuities via his estate. They will provide a family member and a close friend with guaranteed payments for life and a future additional gift to SJSU.
“I am proud that my education provided me with a life where I am now able to give back,” he says. “I encourage all alumni to give back. Give to the university, a college, a program or a scholarship. Your gifts can help give current and future students the same great start that I received at SJSU.”
“I am proud that my education provided me with a life where I am now able to give back.”
Professor Christian Jochim
Comparative Religious Studies Professor Christian Jochim had been teaching at San Jose State more than 30 years when he began planning his retirement. He enrolled in the Faculty Early Retirement Program (FERP), which allows tenured faculty members, librarians and counselors to reduce their workload while receiving 50 percent pay for the remaining few years of their career.
Not long after enrolling in the program, Jochim and his wife Bauchin realized that between receiving his pension and his salary, they would soon be owing more than they had planned on their taxes. Jochim consulted with a gift planner at SJSU and was surprised to learn he could secure a guaranteed annuity payment, receive a sizable income tax deduction and leave a significant gift to SJSU, all by establishing a charitable gift annuity.
“A charitable gift annuity really works for me. It would probably help a lot of others in my situation,” he says. “Most gift planning options do not provide tax advantages while you’re living, so charitable gift annuities are unique. I’m giving the gift while I’m living and receiving the benefits today. SJSU will also get a nice gift when I pass on.”
In addition to the tax benefits, Jochim learned about another nice feature of charitable gift annuities: he can defer his guaranteed payments for higher payments later in life when they are most needed for things like medical expenses and long-term care. Knowing the gift will eventually create an endowment for the College of Humanities and the Arts is rewarding, he says. Though Eastern religion and culture have been his longtime academic focus, Jochim and his wife enjoy attending SJSU performances, art shows, theatrical productions and lectures. It is important to him to support not just religious studies, but humanities and the arts as a whole.
“If you’re considering giving charitable donations, think about San Jose State,” he says. “It’s worth your while and has great academic programs that are in many ways hidden jewels. I’ve always known that if I’m going to support any institution, it’s going to be SJSU.”
Steve and Cheryl Caplan
When Steve and Cheryl Caplan met at San Jose State in the 1960s, they fell in love, not only with each other, but with the university that brought them together. Seeking a comprehensive way to pay their appreciation forward, the Caplans committed $2 million from their estate to their alma mater.
Half of that gift will support the development of a new football operations center, and the other half will create three endowments: the Caplan Family Faculty Fellowship in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, the Caplan Family Teacher Innovation Fund in the Connie L. Lurie College of Education, and a Spartan Athletics Fund Scholarship endowment.
“With our hearts full of appreciation, our contribution acknowledges the gift of education we received as young adults,” says Steve, ’65 Industrial Management. “We hope these gifts will enable San Jose State to continue its good work for future generations of students and student-athletes. We also wish to model philanthropic behavior for our family members, friends and future generations of Spartans.”
Steve joined KBM Workspace, an office furniture and design company, when he was a senior at San Jose State and purchased the company in 1984, becoming its owner and president while helping it grow. He is a current and founding board member of the Tower Foundation of SJSU, an auxiliary organization that handles the investment, administration and banking of SJSU’s philanthropic donations.
Cheryl, ’67 Social Science, ’68 Teaching Credential, taught public school after graduating from San Jose State. As the mother of two energetic young boys, she volunteered in the rural Loma Prieta School District and worked with the principal and superintendent, researching and implementing curriculum, and creating a preschool testing program that helped parents, teachers and children prepare for kindergarten. Cheryl became well versed in the challenges facing education, particularly good communication between the school and families, adequate funding and the need for creative ideas to prepare excellent teachers.
Steve and Cheryl recognize the key role San Jose State plays in the economic well-being of Silicon Valley. They hope their gift will enable SJSU to inspire future generations, build a stronger foundation for Spartan football and Intercollegiate Athletics, and encourage others to invest in the academic mission of the university.
Janice and Ron Dong
Not long after Janice Dong got her teaching credential at San Jose State, she and her husband Ron began investing in real estate. As teachers in a growing Silicon Valley, they learned how to manage and maintain property as a second source of income.
Following their retirement, the Dongs learned that by donating one of their rentals to San Jose State via a charitable remainder trust, they could get a large tax deduction, bypass the capital gains and receive a nice income. The remainder from their trust will establish a scholarship benefiting underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students, creating opportunities for future generations.
“I hope that our gift will help kids go to college—and I hope that San Jose State will have enough support to make them successful,” says Janice, ’64 Elementary Education. “The money that went into the charitable remainder trust is the full amount the house sold for, rather than taking off the capital gains and having a smaller amount to invest. Since we don’t have kids, our money can go to other kids. It’s very advantageous.”
The Dongs met as undergraduates at the University of Redlands, where Janice was studying psychology. The son of a gardener, Ron received a scholarship and worked to support himself, becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college. He served in the Navy before he and Janice moved to San Jose to begin their teaching careers. When they weren’t teaching, they traveled the world or drove across the country in their RV. After retiring, they researched ways to give back to students who they felt needed the most support. They met with a planned giving officer at San Jose State to learn how they could make an impact.
“It’s important to be educated about the pros and cons of giving in different ways,” says Janice. “Find a wonderful person like Randy Balogh, SJSU’s director of planned giving, to walk you through the giving process.”
The Dongs describe their annual income from the trust as “travel money.” They recommend that prospective donors consider charitable remainder trusts as a mutually beneficial way to pay success forward.
“We set up our gift in 1991, at a time when affirmative action was coming under the gun,” says Janice. “We decided to set up a scholarship for underrepresented minorities to ensure they had a chance.”
“It’s important to be educated about the pros and cons of giving in different ways. Find a wonderful person like Randy Balogh, SJSU’s director of planned giving, to walk you through the giving process.”
Jim and Louise Dunaway
When Louise Dunaway was a sophomore in college at University of Mount Union, her father suddenly fell ill and her parents informed her that she’d have to drop out. Heartbroken, the aspiring mathematician approached her dean, who worked with her to find a job on campus and apply for an academic scholarship.
Years later, after teaching in the U.S. Virgin Islands and earning a National Science Foundation fellowship to pursue a master’s degree, Louise began teaching high school math in Mountain View. It was there that she met fellow teacher Jim Dunaway, ’67 Teaching Credential, who, like her, considered teaching math to be “the best job in the world.” Nearly 50 years later, the Dunaways have established a charitable remainder trust that will create endowed scholarships and awards for future math teachers at San Jose State.”I hope that our scholarship recipients really love what they are doing and are encouraged to stay within the profession,” says Louise. “We need good teachers—we need dedicated people. I hope that the students feel validated for all their efforts and hard work.”
Jim worked as an industrial engineer before coming to San Jose, where he realized teaching was his true calling. For decades he and Louise taught at the same school, often staying after school to sponsor math clubs, tutor students and organize field trips to college math lectures. Louise hosted Saturday workshops to encourage girls to study math.
When they retired in the mid-1990s, the Dunaways wanted to share their love for teaching with the next generation. They turned to Jim’s alma mater where, in 2018, they began making annual contributions to award scholarships to math majors pursuing either single-subject or multiple-subject teaching credentials. They also established charitable gift annuities at the University of Mount Union and at Fresno State, where Jim earned his bachelor’s degree. Now, they have the opportunity to meet scholarship recipients every year and witness the impact of their gifts.
“We both loved teaching mathematics,” says Jim. “We wanted to encourage other people to get the same joy out of what they do in life.”
Louise says that without the support of her college dean all those years ago or the NSF fellowship, she probably would not have been able to get an education. Decades later, she is paying her gratitude forward.
“You hear people say they are ‘self-made,’ that they accomplished everything themselves,” she says. “No one ever achieves anything entirely by themselves. I always felt if there were some opportunity for us to provide help to somebody else, I would like us to do it.”
In 1957, the same year that San Jose State College celebrated its centennial, Ruth Yaffe was hired as a temporary instructor in the chemistry department. A specialist in radioactive chemistry and pioneering scientist, Yaffe became the first woman tenured professor in chemistry at San Jose State.
She taught for 35 years, helping more than 500 undergraduates apply to graduate programs and pursue careers in science, medicine and law. Following her retirement, she donated a house she had purchased for her parents to San Jose State to fund a charitable remainder trust.
“I had spent my entire teaching career at SJSU,” says Yaffe. “I mentored hundreds of students, many of them the first in their families to go to a university. Most of them were working as well as going to school. I am fortunate to be able to do something for others.”
Yaffe’s teaching career began as an undergraduate at Macalester College, where she took over her professor’s summer class for soldiers returning from World War II. The young scientist went on to earn a fellowship to pursue her PhD before teaching in Tennessee and moving out west with her family. Only a few years after she began teaching full time, her husband died suddenly, leaving her with two small children. Yaffe focused on raising her children while juggling a full course load at San Jose State. Years later, she married the musician Charles Houser. When the time came to sell her parents’ home, she learned that using the sale of the house to create a charitable remainder trust would not only give her a significant tax deduction and avoid capital gains tax, but the trust would make regular payments to her. SJSU in turn will receive a significant gift to support future generations of Spartans, just as Yaffe envisions.
“With my charitable remainder trust, I receive payments from the trust for the rest of my life—after which point the university receives the remainder to fund scholarships forever. A win-win situation,” she says. “SJSU was my focus, and it seemed natural to support it.”
“With my charitable remainder trust, I receive payments from the trust for the rest of my life—after which point the university receives the remainder to fund scholarships forever. A win-win situation.”
The child of Mexican farmworkers, Fernando Zazueta attended 16 different schools before graduating from San Jose High School in 1957—and still remembers early mornings when he had to dig holes deeper than himself for the family outhouse. By the time he graduated from San Jose State in 1962, he’d studied science and business, hosted parties to help fund his tuition, and met his wife Cecily, ’65 Nursing, who later became a nurse and counselor.
He joined the Air Force Reserve, helping place wounded soldiers returning from Vietnam in hospitals, and worked as a bank officer before pursuing a law degree at UC Davis. For four decades, he worked as a personal injury plaintiff’s lawyer in San Jose while raising three kids, traveling the world while staying connected to his alma mater. In an effort to give back, the Zazuetas established gifts in their wills to the university.
“There’s a reason schools are called ‘alma maters,'” says Zazueta, ’62 Business and Industrial Management. “‘Alma’ means soul and ‘mater’ means mother. I have a great appreciation for the education I received at San Jose State. Education is the only way a person can advance in life—and I don’t just mean preparation for a job. I mean understanding the world around you. College is the key to opening the door to inquiry and learning how to apply yourself, participate and be involved in your community.”
A member of the Tower Society, the Heritage Society and the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business Community Outreach Board, Zazueta has actively supported fellow Spartans for years. Zazueta is the president of the La Raza Historical Society of Santa Clara Valley. In 2020, he will become the first “foreign-born, former farmworker” president of the downtown San Jose Rotary Club, the ninth largest Rotary club in the nation.
He is motivated to support SJSU in part because of the rising cost of tuition. As an undergraduate, he says university tuition was subsidized in large part by California taxpayers—funding that has been cut time and again in the intervening years.
“I thank California taxpayers for giving this farmworker kid an education,” he says. “I was the beneficiary of a great education. Back then, the burden of paying for an education was mostly borne by the taxpayers, and today that burden has been transferred to the students. I give to SJSU because I feel a real sense of gratitude.”
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Photo: Brandon Chew