A UC Davis alumnus who says that some of his most powerful college experiences took place on the athletics field has made a $2 million commitment to Intercollegiate Athletics — the largest single philanthropic contribution to athletics in the university's 102-year history.
Bruce Edwards, together with his wife, Diane, made the gift to support Aggie Stadium. Edwards is a 1960 graduate who played football and ran track for UC Davis. The funds will go toward the stadium’s maintenance and operations, and may be used for future enhancements or expansion.
Edwards, now a retired businessman living in Saratoga, Calif., said he felt moved to make the gift because of the enrichment and enjoyment that athletics competition brought to his life in college, and because he realized he could make an impact on future generations of student-athletes.
“The memories I created while playing sports are the most vivid of my college years,” said Edwards, who earned a degree in physical education at UC Davis.
Intercollegiate Athletics Director Greg Warzecka called the contribution “transformational” for the department. “This is a gift that can forge a new future for us, by improving upon an already beautiful stadium,” he said. “The athletics department is so appreciative of the leadership and generosity shown by Bruce and Diane Edwards.”
The Edwardses’ gift may be used to help support Phase II of the construction of Aggie Stadium, which will include building a sports medicine facility on site, as well as a strength-and-conditioning room for student-athletes.
The $31 million stadium, which opened in 2007, was financed by student fees and gifts from many donors — including Bruce and Diane Edwards, who contributed $500,000. The stadium’s club room is named in Bruce’s honor.
Aggie Stadium seats nearly 11,000 fans and is used by the football team, the women’s lacrosse team and the women’s field hockey team.
Increasing the seating capacity of the stadium is another potential use of the Edwardses’ gift.
Warzecka said he would like to see the stadium grow to seat 20,000 spectators, a size that would build the strength of the athletics program and accommodate a broader range of events, such as professional soccer matches.
The stadium has been used by the community for a variety of purposes. Davis High School has used the facility for graduation ceremonies and home football games. And Special Olympics Northern California has held events associated with its Summer Games there; this June, the stadium will host the opening ceremonies for the games.
The stadium is also a leader in sustainability. In 2007, UC Davis was the first university in the country to set a goal of operating a zero-waste stadium. And this past fall, UC Davis ranked as the top university in the country in the percentage of stadium trash diverted to recycling and composting during the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s annual WasteWise Game Day Challenge.
The contributions from the Edwardses are helping the stadium become a “cornerstone of activity and campus pride,” Warzecka said, which was the vision of the students who voted in 1999 to increase student fees to help pay for the facility.
Despite the intensity of Edwards’ collegiate athletics experiences, more than 40 years passed between his graduation and his return to UC Davis for a home football game. After graduating from college, Edwards worked at Taylor Roof Structures in Oakland. In 1966 he left to start Roof Structures Inc. — at the time based in San Jose, now based in Fremont — a business that furnishes and installs wood roof structures for commercial and industrial buildings. In 1973, Edwards founded March Development Company in Los Gatos, Calif., developing and building commercial and industrial buildings in Silicon Valley.
It wasn’t until 2001 that Edwards returned to the Aggie football stands as a fan. The power of the relationships he forged while competing as an athlete came flooding back.
“When you see someone that you played sports with 50 years ago, you still have a relationship,” Edwards explains. “If you took a class with someone you might say ‘hi,’ but if you played a sport with someone, there’s a bond for a lifetime.”
For their part, some student-athletes said they were struck by the Aggie pride Edwards showed in making this gift.
"We all have a bond as Aggies and it's amazing to see alumni continue to contribute,” said Bobby Erskine, a junior who is a defensive end on the football team. “My class is one of the first to experience the benefits of the stadium. To see it grow and know it's only going to get better is exciting."
Rachael Martinez, a senior who is a co-captain of the UC Davis women’s lacrosse team, said it is was evident that the Edwardses’ gift is impacting many students.
"I just want to thank Bruce Edwards for how gracious he has been and let him know how many athletes' experiences he has helped shape," said Martinez. "I am just one player, but I know my whole team appreciates how great the facility is."
After 40 years away from Aggie football, Edwards now can’t wait for football season.
“I have a lot of relationships with people on campus so it is very gratifying for me to come back,” he said.
In addition to supporting athletics, the Edwardses give to the College of Letters and Science and the UC Davis Annual Fund. They have also established the Bruce and Diane Edwards Endowed Award Fund to provide undergraduate student scholarships.
Their latest gift to athletics will count as part of The Campaign for UC Davis, a universitywide initiative to inspire 100,000 donors to contribute $1 billion to advance UC Davis’ mission and vision.
The Edwardses' $2 million contribution is an irrevocable planned gift, made through a charitable trust.
Bruce is the vice chair of the UC Davis Foundation’s Board of Trustees and a member of the Davis Chancellor’s Club, the Herbert A. Young Society, the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, the Intercollegiate Athletics Director’s Leadership Council, TeamAGGIE and the Aggie Touchdown club.
“I am committed to being an advocate for giving to Aggie athletics. I really feel, more so today than ever, that education is incredibly important — and athletics are a vital part of a comprehensive university education,” he said.