Creating a legacy for the future

Physics student Brandon Gunn

Thanks in part to scholarship support, physics student Brandon Gunn can forgo a summer job and instead spend time at one of the world's top scientific research centers.

Family scholarship funds help nurture and educate the next generation of students

Brandon Gunn, a physics major at SF State, would typically spend the summer, in his words, “working as much as possible” in order to pay his rent during the school year. This summer, he’ll be spared that burden as a recipient of a Bengier Family Scholarship. “The relief this provides is hard for me to even put into words,” he says. Rather than working one or more summer jobs, Brandon will spend eight weeks conducting research at CERN, the famed nuclear research center near Geneva, Switzerland.
  Brandon is one of 15 students benefiting this year from scholarships funded by Gary and Cynthia Bengier, husband and wife SF State alumni who have been supporting scholarships at the University for 15 years. Gary (M.A., ‘11), a former CFO of eBay, and Cynthia (B.A., ’78), who enjoyed a successful career in banking, are motivated in their philanthropy by the idea of “passing it on.” By this they mean creating a chain of scholarships, or individual investment of time and energy, to help nurture and educate the next generation. Students who receive a Bengier Family Scholarship are encouraged to pass on their own support to others later in life when they have the ability to do so.

After completing his physics degree, Brandon plans to pursue a Ph.D. and ultimately work to create a better world in whatever way he can. “I don’t know exactly what I want to do with my education once I’m finished, but I do know I want to be part of something that makes a difference on a global scale. Maybe I can be part of the next major advancement in medical technology or environmental sustainability.” Gary and Cynthia, meanwhile, are confident that Brandon and the other Bengier Family Scholarship recipients share their altruistic outlook. “It is extremely rewarding to find so many young people who subscribe to a philosophy of sharing,” they explained. “It should make everyone hopeful for the future.”

Legacy Families

As philanthropy takes on a greater role at SF State, more families like the Bengiers are demonstrating their commitment to a better future by creating family scholarship funds that provide much-needed – and much-appreciated – support to today’s students. Some see first-hand the influence of an SF State education on successive generations right in their own families.

Dan Martinelli, an executive at Google, graduated from SF State in 1980 with a degree in accounting, while his wife, Diane, a recently retired high school teacher, graduated with a B.A. in history and earned her teaching credential in the early 1990s. Dan and Diane’s children, Lauren (B.A., ’07) and Anthony (B.A., ’12) are proud Gators, as well. This past December, Dan and Diane established the Martinelli Family Scholarship Endowment, an endowed fund that will provide its first scholarship to an accounting student this fall. “While the accounting program at SF State certainly proved to be great preparation for my career, my overall experience at the University helped me become the person I am today,” Dan says. “This is also true of my wife and our children, and we feel fortunate to help future students take advantage of all that SF State offers.”

Like the Martinellis, the Agid family is another SF State “legacy family,” as those with multiple generations of alumni are often called, and one that also spans three generations, including Bruce Agid (B.S., ’93), his brother, Brian (B.A., ’76), their mother, Helen (B.S., ’66), and Bruce’s daughter, Michele, who earned her B.A. in 1997 and her teaching credential in 1999. Last December, Bruce made a gift on behalf of the Agid family to establish an endowed scholarship in the College of Business. “Both of my parents recognized the value of an SF State education,” he explains. “Before she passed away, my mother encouraged my sister, Gwen, and me to fund a scholarship at SF State. After the death last year of our father, who had taken classes at SF State and named the University a beneficiary of his estate, my family decided that funding an endowed scholarship was a way of honoring our parents while benefiting students well into the future.”

Many Ways to Give

Some legacy families choose to demonstrate their commitment to SF State by giving generously of their time and expertise in addition to providing financial support. Alumni John and Janice Gumas established a scholarship in marketing while serving the University enthusiastically as volunteers. John (B.S., ’84), who is president of Gumas Advertising, is a member and immediate past chair of the SF State Foundation Board of Directors and chair of  “Bold. Thinking.,” the University’s first comprehensive campaign, which is currently in its leadership phase and promises to have a transformative effect on the future of SF State. His wife, Janice (B.S., ’85), served as president of the SF State Parents Council and lent her considerable insight to parents of incoming SF State freshmen as a host and speaker at past Welcome Days. Last fall, the University recognized Janice’s dedication by bestowing on her the Alumni Service Award.

John and Janice were especially proud last spring when their son, Nick, received his diploma in speech communication at SF State’s commencement ceremony at AT&T Park. They also find great satisfaction in knowing that the Janice and John Gumas Endowed Marketing Scholarship will help talented and deserving students in the College of Business stay on track to receive their diplomas as well. “San Francisco State plays a very large role in our family, just as it does in the Bay Area,” says John. “We want to make sure it continues to do so – in bigger and bolder ways – for generations to come.”