Retired UC Davis staff members Silvia and Ted Hillyer give to help graduate students.
The Hillyers are familiar with the importance of a graduate education and the challenges of financing it.
The couple worked with hundreds of graduate students in the 31-year-long careers they had at UC Davis. Silvia was the student affairs officer in the graduate group in ecology before her retirement in March 2011, serving as staff adviser and administrator of this large graduate program. Ted, a principal development engineer in the department of applied science who retired in 2005, did hands-on work with graduate students in the lab, helping to design experiments.
“We both worked with graduate students and were very much involved with them and their lives,” Silvia said. “Because of that, we felt like graduate education should be the emphasis of our philanthropy—to give back to these students.”
The Hillyers were further motivated to give to UC Davis graduate students because of the Soderquist Matching Fund Initiative for Graduate Student Support.
Through this initiative, launched with a $500,000 gift from the estate of alumnus Charlie Soderquist, donors could establish an endowed fund to support graduate students with a gift of $12,500 or more; each contribution was matched dollar-for-dollar, up to a maximum of $25,000, with funds from the Soderquist estate. The matching fund initiative, which specifically encouraged gifts from current and retired UC Davis faculty and staff, raised $1.2 million and established 27 new endowments to support graduate students. The first graduate student awards from the Soderquist initiative were made in fall 2011.
The Hillyers said they also were motivated to give out of appreciation for their fulfilling careers at UC Davis.
“For us, it wasn’t just work; it wasn’t just a job. And I think a lot of people feel that way,” Silvia said. “I think all staff members should give back, in whatever manner they can. I’m very proud to be a participant in the Soderquist Matching Fund initiative. I want people to know that we really appreciate the university and all it has done for our lives.”