$1 million gift from Jack Baskin establishes endowed chairs in engineering and humanities at UCSC

Peggy Downes Baskin and Jack Baskin. Photo by R. Jones

Philanthropist Jack Baskin has continued his remarkable record of support for the University of California, Santa Cruz, with two $500,000 gifts establishing endowed chairs, one in the Humanities Division that honors his wife, Peggy Downes Baskin, and another in the Baskin School of Engineering.

The Peggy Downes Baskin Endowed Humanities Chair for Interdisciplinary Studies in Ethics will be held by a distinguished member of the UCSC humanities faculty or a visiting professor whose work advances the study of the role of ethics in various fields. The chair supports an area of interest to Downes Baskin, a research associate in UCSC's feminist studies program.

The Jack Baskin Endowed Chair in Technology and Information Management will be held by the faculty member who directs the Technology and Information Management Program in the Baskin School of Engineering. With this gift, Baskin's donations to the engineering school that bears his name now total more than $8 million.

"These two chairs support the very best of UC Santa Cruz: innovative programs and a creative approach to discovery involving faculty from multiple disciplines," said Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal. "The campus is again benefiting from Jack and Peggy Baskin's support for key programs and initiatives that advance our mission and enhance the quality and impact of UCSC."

Technology and information management is a new and distinct discipline within engineering, combining technology management, systems engineering, and information technology. The Baskin School of Engineering is developing M.S. and Ph.D. programs in this field, complementing its undergraduate program in Information Systems Management, and the school plans to establish a Department of Technology and Information Management. Graduates of these academic programs will have a solid technology base from engineering and information technology, coupled with an understanding of the functions of business enterprises.

"I am extremely excited and pleased that we will have an endowed professorship in Technology and Information Management. This will be of great help in recruiting an outstanding senior faculty member to take over as chair of this program," said Patrick Mantey, the Baskin Professor of Computer Engineering. "I know and appreciate, as a Baskin Chair holder, the value of a chair in faculty recruitment and retention, for the financial support it provides with discretionary funds, and for the associated prestige."

Ethics is another area with cross-disciplinary ramifications that has received increasing attention at UCSC. Ellen Suckiel, provost of Stevenson College and a professor of philosophy, teaches a bioethics course that attracts students from across the divisions and is required for some majors, including the engineering school's new bioengineering major.

"The new, generously funded Peggy Downes Baskin Humanities Chair for Interdisciplinary Ethics will enable the UCSC campus to become an international leader in addressing the major ethical and humanistic questions of our time, and the privileged venue for the articulation of creative solutions to the perceived crisis in values said to reign in postindustrial and technologically advanced societies," said humanities dean Georges Van Den Abbeele.

Downes Baskin said she has long been interested in the ethical issues that arise in many different fields.

"There are so many areas in which ethical problems arise--in journalism, politics, medicine--and the endowed chair emphasizes the need to address these issues in a cross-disciplinary context," she said.

Downes Baskin coauthored the 2003 book Beyond Superwoman, which explores the lives of successful female executives in Silicon Valley. She helped create and fund UCSC's Girls in Engineering program, a summer school program designed to encourage interest in engineering among seventh- and eighth-grade girls from throughout Santa Cruz County. Downes Baskin taught politics at Santa Clara University for 18 years and has also taught women's studies at UCSC.

Jack Baskin chaired the UC Santa Cruz Foundation for two years and remains a Foundation trustee. He will be among the speakers at an Open House celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Baskin School of Engineering on Friday, February 23 (see press release). In addition to these latest gifts to the campus, the Baskins have given generously to support instruction in the arts, the Institute of Marine Sciences, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, an endowed chair in psychology, a scholarship in literature, and other departments. The Baskins live in Santa Cruz and Carmel.


Note to reporters: If you would like to interview the Baskins or UCSC administrators about these gifts, please contact Tim Stephens in the Public Information Office at (831) 459-4352 or stephens@ucsc.edu. A high-resolution photo of the Baskins is available here.