Linda Koval’s three-decade commitment

Alumna is a longtime supporter of UCSC students

Linda Koval (Merrill ’76, community studies) is a staunch supporter of UCSC students. 

Linda Koval has supported UC Santa Cruz for nearly three decades, generously contributing her time and resources to create opportunities for Banana Slugs.

“Supporting our students is my number one priority,” Koval says. “I want to impact students in as big a way as possible so they can impact the world.”

Koval understands the challenges students face and wants to help break down barriers that get in the way of their academic journey. She was a single, working mother in the early 1970s when a chance encounter with a neighbor—UCSC lecturer and former Santa Cruz city council member and mayor, Michael Rotkin—served as the catalyst for Koval to return to school. Koval says her conversation with Rotkin gave her the confidence she needed to apply to UCSC as a reentry student.

She attended a satellite program at UCSC, going to classes in the evenings and on the weekends while working two part-time jobs and parenting her children. Koval graduated from Merrill College in 1976 with a degree in community studies. She then went on to graduate school at San Jose State University.

“I feel a great deal of gratitude for what I was allowed to do in a difficult situation,” Koval says.

Koval taught special education through the Santa Cruz County Office of Education for more than 30 years, ultimately becoming a head teacher, then a mentor teacher for graduate teachers from San Jose State University. After retiring, she consulted for the Santa Cruz County Office of Education, California State University, Monterey Bay, and several private schools for students with autism.

When Koval’s husband, Bob, died in 2017, she began looking for ways to stay busy and make new friends. She learned about the UC Santa Cruz Women’s Club, now Community Connections, and the group’s fundraising work for scholarships for re-entry students.

“I knew right away that was what I wanted to do,” Koval says. 

Since joining Community Connections, Koval has served as a member at large, vice president, and is currently president. She says she has developed cherished friendships, learned new skills, and gained satisfaction from raising funds for student scholarships.

“I love the work. I get the biggest sense of fulfillment seeing a student get through and graduate,” Koval says. “We can make a difference for students. They shouldn’t have to drop out because of financial concerns.”

She enjoys living close to campus, often swims at the pool, has coffee or lunch, and visits the Bay Tree Bookstore. Koval welcomes the opportunity to interact with students, stay connected, and see what’s going on.

“There are so many important things happening at UC Santa Cruz that affect the whole world,” Koval says. “UCSC graduates are making a global impact, especially in our sciences with cancer research and RNA/DNA work. It’s just amazing work. And I feel it’s extremely important to be connected to UC Santa Cruz as a donor as if I am playing a small part in the university’s success.”