Come Make a Difference

Penelope and Babak Jamasbi (center) alongside their children, Alex, Leila and Kameron '23.


The heart of what comprises the University of San Diego is not only the efforts of the students, faculty and staff, but also that of the parents. Among USD’s many engaged family members are three sets of parents who have one thing in common: their time, involvement and contributions have helped change the university for the better.

“Come make a difference” is Gary and Sharon Qualls’ motto. The Qualls are from Orange County, California, and their daughter, Julia ’22 (BBA), is studying marketing and is a member of the cheer team.

This year, Gary and Sharon are co-presidents of the Parent Advisory Board. The Qualls say a key focus of the board is raising funds for at-risk students through the Torero Student Support Fund. They also contribute to the USD Food Pantry and the Torero Closet. The pantry offers food to students in need and the closet provides students access to professional clothes for job interviews.

“For all of us on the board, there is not a dry eye in the house when we get a student that had to rely on the Torero Pantry or the Torero Closet or benefitted from the scholarship,” says Gary. “We are thrilled to help make their dreams come true.”

Sharon says for people looking to get involved, there is a role for everyone. “You can be totally immersed in helping or involved in one-off events,” she notes. For parents who may not be able to join the Parent Advisory Board, Sharon says a good way for parents to get their toes wet is to become involved with the Parent Ambassador Program, which invites parents to serve as volunteers at different events across the country.

Daniel and Liz Caldwell live nearly 3,000 miles from campus in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. All three of their children have attended USD: Will ’13 (BAc), Liz ’15 (BA) and Chris ‘23.

Despite their distance from campus, the Caldwells are actively involved at USD. Both are members of the Parent Advisory Board, and Liz will be president of the board for the 2022-23 school year. “By getting involved, you can make a difference. Because USD is not so big, you can see things get done,” says Liz.

Last year, the Caldwells donated $10,000 that they wanted to see utilized right away. “With COVID, parents may have lost their jobs, and we are very blessed, so I wanted to give back.” Liz says it was heartwarming to see the impact of their donation, “We got a thank you email from three or four of the students, and I cried.”

The Caldwells also regularly donate stays at their vacation homes and pieces of Daniel’s artwork as auction items for Casino Night and the Founders Gala, which takes place on November 13, 2021. Liz is excited to attend this year’s gala at Petco Park. “I went to the last one, and it was so amazing. It was one of the most beautiful events I have ever been to.”

She explains why the couple has chosen to be so involved at USD: “It’s the least we can do to give back to an institution that has taken very good care of our children. It gives us joy.”

Babak and Penelope Jamasbi live in Northern California’s Marin County. Their son, Kameron ’23, is studying business. They are new members of the Parent Advisory Board and recently created a $50,000 endowed scholarship fund.

Babak is a physician and Penelope is a former nurse. The couple felt it was especially important to give back during the pandemic and support students in health studies, who in turn will be an essential part of their own communities.

Through the endowed fund, scholarships will be given each year to third- and fourth-year pre-health students as well as to graduate nursing students. “I want them to be able to finish and encourage them to stay in that field and not be discouraged by the cost,” says Babak.

“I think that giving a scholarship to a student is like giving them a high five. ‘You can do this, you’ve got this,’” adds Penelope. — Cameran Biltucci

Pictured: Penelope and Babak Jamasbi (center) alongside their children, Alex, Leila and Kameron ’23.

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