Skip directly to: Main page content

The Campaign for UC Davis

Office of University Development

UC Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616-5270

(530) 754-4438 phone
(530) 754-2294 fax

Entrepreneurship advances through $2 million gift

Photo: Andrew Hargadon

Professor Andrew Hargadon holds the newly established Charles J. Soderquist Endowed Chair in the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, thanks to a bequest from his late friend and colleague Charlie Soderquist. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

By Trina Wood

The UC Davis Graduate School of Management has $2 million in new seed money to spark entrepreneurship in California, thanks to a gift from the estate of Charles Soderquist, a UC Davis alumnus who founded and led several dozen high-tech companies in the greater Sacramento area.

Half of the $2 million will establish an endowment to support the management school’s Center for Entrepreneurship and the other portion will be used to create the Charles J. Soderquist Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship.

Soderquist received his master’s degree in 1973 and his doctorate in 1978, both from UC Davis, in environmental chemistry. He died in 2004.

“Although I did not have the good fortune to know Mr. Soderquist personally, I am grateful for his many years of dedication to UC Davis,” Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said. “Philanthropic support like that from the Soderquist estate is critical to the growth of programs and helps to move us even higher within the top tier of the nation’s public research universities.”

Steven Currall, dean of the Graduate School of Management, said this gift will contribute to the momentum of the UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship.

“This is a trailblazing gift that will catapult the center to higher levels of recognition and achievement,” he said.

The Center for Entrepreneurship got its start in the winter of 2004 when Soderquist, Graduate School of Management Professor Andrew Hargadon and Sacramento-based venture capitalist Scott Lenet co-taught a course that mixed Graduate School of Management students with graduate students from the life sciences and engineering program on campus. Students learned under the guidance of experienced entrepreneurs, investors and corporate leaders. Soderquist shared his experiences in launching new companies, along with his vision for how science and business could mix at UC Davis.

Photo: Charles Soderquist

Charles Soderquist (Debbie Aldridge/UC Davis)

“The idea was to create a program that would not just teach entrepreneurship but create entrepreneurs,” said Hargadon, who has served as the center’s director since its inception. He assumed the Charles J. Soderquist Endowed Chair on Nov. 1. “We felt that UC Davis, with all of its science and engineering talent, could blossom if entrepreneurs helped bring those ideas out of the laboratories and into the broader world.”

Since then, the center has enrolled more than 40 doctoral candidates in the Business Development Fellows program (a year-long series of courses and intensive week-long “boot camps”) and more than 300 national and international participants in its entrepreneurship academies. These scientists and engineers have turned their ideas into action, fostering the development of such innovations as energy-efficient LED street lighting, technology that can turn wastewater into biodegradable plastics, and designs for high-efficiency solar cells, among many other projects.

“Charlie would have been proud to see the Center for Entrepreneurship blossom as it has,” said Chancellor Emeritus Larry Vanderhoef, who counted Soderquist as a close friend and was instrumental in establishing the endowed chair. “He was passionate about so many things, including the promise of science and technology to make this world a better place.”

Soderquist’s enthusiasm extended from the science, business and investment communities to education, art, literature and the environment. He was a staunch supporter of his alma mater and served as chair of the UC Davis Foundation, a volunteer-led organization that receives private gifts to benefit UC Davis and manages its endowed gift funds and other private assets.

Hargadon said he only wishes Soderquist could have seen that first class become the program that continues to grow and engage UC Davis students and scholars from around the world.

“There is nothing more fitting — nor more moving to me — than to have Charlie’s name and continuing support attached to the program he helped create,” Hargadon said.

This article was originally published in UC Davis Magazine.