Three years ago UC Santa Cruz alumnus Gabriel "Gabe" Zimmerman, 30, was killed in the Tucson mass shooting that gravely wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Zimmerman (Stevenson, '02, sociology) was Giffords' outreach director and had organized the Congress on Your Corner community event where the shooting happened. He was the first congressional staffer killed in the line of duty.

A scholarship fund in Zimmerman's honor has grown to nearly $80,000 and is poised to grow further from an innovative crowd funding campaign launched January 8, the third anniversary of Zimmerman's death.

The Gabriel Zimmerman Memorial Scholarship provides financial support to a UCSC undergraduate student in the social sciences who is committed to public service. "We are incredibly grateful to our alums for their support of this scholarship," said Sheldon Kamieniecki, UCSC dean of social sciences. "It is a fitting tribute to Gabe who dedicated his life to public service."

Two UCSC alums in San Francisco, moved by Zimmerman's commitment to public service, helped start the scholarship fund. More than 500 alumni, faculty, staff, community members, other congressional aides, and the public have contributed since it started.

The two alums, Alex Clemens (Porter, '89, international politics) and Jonathan Klein (Merrill, '89, politics) served on the selection committee that awarded the first $2,500 scholarship in 2012 to Yethzéll Díaz, a senior majoring in Latin American and Latino studies and sociology and the second last year to Carson Watts, an Oakes College sociology major and politics minor.

Kamieniecki said he hopes the endowed fund will eventually grow to more than $250,000 so multiple scholarships can be awarded to more UCSC students each year.