Keep on Paying it Forward


Mark Hoekstra ’86 knows the importance of scholarships from every angle — as a student, as a parent of a daughter who graduated in 2012, as an alumnus on USD’s Alumni Association Board of Directors, and even as someone who reads scholarship applications from students in the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate.

Each year, from among the many deserving students, Hoekstra must pick one to receive a scholarship through the California Homebuilding Foundation from the Ernest W. Hahn Endowment. The scholarship, which is named for Hoekstra’s grandfather, a trustee emeritus for whom the Hahn University Center is named, was established in 1990, prior to the launch of the real estate program in 1993 and well before the Burnham-Moores Center for Real Estate was named in 2004.

“The world is in great hands if these students are an example of our future,” Hoekstra says. “The achievements they have experienced and the obstacles they have overcome in their short lives are inspiring and motivating to me.”

It was the stories of so many students that inspired Hoekstra to think big and challenge his fellow alumni board members to raise $1 million for alumni endowed scholarships — a goal they reached during the summer of 2012.

“Achieving this milestone shows the power of the Alumni Association, our alumni leaders and the love that they have for this university,” says Charles Bass, director of alumni relations. “It also shows how every gift, no matter the size, can add up to benefit our students for a lifetime.”

The ambitious seven-figure quest started in 2006 when Shannon Smith ’86 first established the Alumni Endowed Scholarship Fund. The next year, while the board discussed its annual goals, Hoekstra, then the chair of its finance committee, suggested the board commit to a $1 million goal.

To make it happen, board member Kevin Dooley ’93 established the Wine Classic in 2009; with proceeds supporting the Alumni Endowed Scholarship Fund. Hoekstra says there are several things that make USD’s Wine Classic special — and different from other wine-tasting events.

First, all of the vineyards are connected in some way to USD. The dozens of owners or vintners are USD alumni, USD parents or have some other close tie to the university. Also, the people who are pouring the wines aren’t sales staff: rather, they’re owners, vintners or others who are involved in the winemaking process. The setting — the Joan B. Kroc Institute of Peace & Justice’s scenic Garden of the Sea, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean — is arguably one of the most beautiful in San Diego. And finally, the fundraising component is an integral part of the event. At least half of the guests are alumni, who understand the importance 
of scholarships.

“Nearly 70 percent of the students at USD are on some sort of financial aid,” Hoekstra says. “The rallying cry, the thing that resonates with everyone, is scholarships. The biggest growth in our alumni population was from the late 70s to the early 90s. They all recognize the value and importance of scholarships.”

In its inaugural year, the Wine Classic drew 400 guests and raised $20,000. In four short years, the numbers skyrocketed to 700 and the event has brought in a combined total of more than $150,000 to help reach the $1 million mark.

“As founder of the Wine Classic, I am extremely proud of how the university’s administration, the Board of Trustees, the alumni office, our amazing faculty and my fellow alumni have been so supportive of the event and its goals,” says Dooley. “This is my final year on the Alumni Board, but USD is a part of my foundation that can’t be removed.”

Dooley says it was his parents who inspired him to make a difference as a donor and as an active alumnus. He also volunteers at Homecoming Weekend and attends Alumni Honors.

“Today, it is the students and faculty of USD that inspire me, knowing that even a gift of $100 toward the Alumni Endowed Scholarship Fund, volunteering at Homecoming, or championing the USD Wine Classic can help a student fulfill their dream of a college degree. I hope that my involvement will help future Toreros.” — Krystn Shrieve