Go West: Behind A State School's Largest Gift Ever

California State University Monterey Bay recently received a $10 million gift to create two endowed professorships—one in business entrepreneurship and one in nursing. The gift will also create an entrepreneurship fund to help students "research, build, and bring products from concept to market."

The donors behind this gift are couple Joel and Dena Gambord who have a charitable vehicle called the Joel and Dena Gambord Charitable Foundation at the Community Foundation for Monterey County, through which they've funded organizations involved in training and placing service dogs. In a recent year, a little over $100,000 went towards these efforts. Recent grantees include Early Alert Canines, National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, and Hearing Dog Program. Joel Gambord is a real estate developer and former director of the National Association of Home Builders.

The couple has strong ties to Monterey County. Gambord's family hails from Eastern Europe and settled in Los Angeles. Gambord worked at his family's meatpacking business before being drafted during the Korean War. Dena's family, meanwhile moved from Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl era and settled in Carmel Valley. The couple found opportunity in California and as Gambord puts it: "As the 40s were ending, we began looking to the future of a growing country. California was booming... people were coming all over the country to the Golden State."

The Gambords later moved into the storied Monte Sereno home that John Steinbeck and his wife Carol built and lived in the region for some three decades. Eventually, Dena wanted to return to Monterey where she got her California start, and so in 2000 the couple retired to Pebble Beach.

We've written about these kinds of homecomings before, where donors retire to the region where they got their start and then turn to philanthropy. In one case, a Midwest couple returned to Florida, where their philanthropic attention shifted back to the Sunshine State. In the Gambords case, they didn't have to travel quite as far but the point remains.

Finally, we couldn't help but notice that a component of this gift yet again involves entrepreneurship. We'll say it again, boosters of entrepreneurship seeing seeing universities as great allies.