The Transformational Power of Giving

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It all started with $25.

When Richard and Virginia “Ginnie” Hunsaker wrote out that check to the University of Redlands in the 1950s, they had no idea that the gift they made to their alma mater was the first in what would turn into more than 50 years of support totaling $75 million.

“We were very pleased with our experience and wanted to give back,” Rich said. “That was early in our married life, when we were in our 20s. When you begin giving early, it will increase as you prosper.”

“We felt we had finally arrived at a place where we were pretty stable and could part with some extra [money],” Ginnie said. “We started giving regularly to our church and to Redlands.”

Members of the class of 1952 who married a month after graduation, the Hunsakers have made a tremendous impact on the University of Redlands by endowing four faculty chairs and numerous scholarships, serving on the Board of Trustees and co-chairing the $107 million Centennial Campaign. They were instrumental in the restoration of the Memorial Chapel and building of their namesake Hunsaker University Center.

Their decades of giving have culminated in the largest-ever single gift in the history of the University of Redlands: $35 million to establish the Richard and Virginia Hunsaker Scholarship Prize. The scholarship will be awarded annually to eight incoming Redlands students beginning with the 2015 freshman class and is designed to recognize and support exceptional students who have innate traits of leadership and community engagement. The prize will not depend on test scores and will attract a highly diverse pool of candidates.

The scholarship prize was announced by President Ralph Kuncl during the “R Story, History in the Making” celebration held in the Memorial Chapel during Homecoming and Parents’ Weekend, which also featured the premiere of “Unbounded,” a musical composition created for the occasion by Professor Tony Suter.

“Rich and Ginnie have led by example for so many years, and through this gift, they are doing it again,” Dr. Kuncl said during his remarks. “In making this commitment and by allowing us to have this grand celebration, they are, as philosopher David Elton Trueblood once wrote, ‘planting a tree that will give shade to those he or she will never meet.’ … The generosity of Rich and Ginnie—unparalleled in every category—has made a profound difference for the University of Redlands.’”

The Hunsakers’ commitment to the University of Redlands has not only helped shape students and faculty members but also administrators. President Emeritus James Appleton credits the Hunsakers with sealing his decision to come to Redlands in 1987. At the time, Rich was chair of the Board of Trustees, and Dr. Appleton said he will “always view him as my boss, but also my friend.”

“I said to them, ‘If I come, you have got to be partners in this enterprise,’ and they said, ‘Absolutely,’” Dr. Appleton said. “They already had strong loyalty.”

The Hunsakers worked with Dr. Appleton on several campaigns to ensure that the University of Redlands became an exemplar of the new American college, and Rich has witnessed firsthand how the University has changed for the better over the years.

“Redlands is a small university, and our gifts can really make a difference more than if we were giving to someone with a huge endowment,” he said. “We can see the good that our gifts do, and I think that’s the main motivation for us to give.”

A Passion for Transforming Student Lives

Like many college students, Rich was determined to become a new man when he enrolled in the University of Redlands. “I was Richard, but decided I would become Rich,” he said. “I was kind of a shy guy in high school, not very sure of myself. I took a course on Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ where most of the guys were in their 20s and 30s, and I was 16 years old. I went and became president of the freshman class; I had never been anything before. I put myself out there and got to know people and built friendships. Plus, I met my wife—what could be any better?”

Ginnie was planning to attend Stanford University, but the aunt who was going to pay for her schooling fell on hard times. A teacher helped Ginnie receive a scholarship, and she decided to visit Redlands, where a cousin was already studying. “I went, and it was exactly what I dreamed of,” she said. “The Quad, the beautiful campus, I loved it. My freshman year I lived in University Hall, a redwood building with a front porch. It took up the whole block and was very stately, with tall ceilings in all of the rooms. It was one mile from the campus, and a bus took us to classes, or we could walk. It was so dear to my heart, and my senior year I was a counselor. I spent a lot of time there and wish more students could see what it looked like back then.”

Both Rich and Ginnie thrived at the University—he was on the football team; she was in the Chapel Choir and modern dance club—and students come first in their giving. They felt it was important to support scholarships that allow a new generation to make lifelong memories, and one of those scholarships is especially close to Ginnie’s heart: In the 1990s, she began a tutoring program at The Wooden Floor, a nonprofit dance company serving underprivileged children in Orange County, and the couple funds scholarships for participants to attend Redlands.

Karla Ramirez ’17 of Santa Ana is one of those students. “Redlands had everything I was looking for in a school,” she said, and once she found out she had earned the scholarship, the decision to attend Redlands was “a very clear choice.” A Spanish and Visual and Media Studies double major, Ramirez is also active in leadership development and community service. “I wouldn’t have had these same experiences at another school,” she said.

Through such scholarships, the Hunsakers have been instrumental in bringing students from all backgrounds to the University. “Many very good students from wonderful families who didn’t have the ability to send their children to a school of this caliber are here because of Rich and Ginnie,” Dr. Appleton said.“These scholarships show a commitment to education for students of all ethnic identifications and social classes.”

A Tradition of Academic Excellence

As undergrads, Rich and Ginnie received educations that helped them launch their careers in real estate management and teaching, respectively. When they decided to fund four endowed faculty chairs, three were based on their interests, while one honored a late friend.

The Richard C. Hunsaker Chair of Management, the Virginia Hunsaker Chair in Distinguished Teaching, the University Chair in Global Business and the H. Jess and Donna Colton Senecal Dean’s Chair in Business all offer specific services with each one enriching the University of Redlands in its own distinct way. “Endowed chairs allow the University to attract top senior talent,” said Professor Jack Osborn, the Richard C. Hunsaker Chair of Management. “The chair is an indicator of a department’s commitment to excellence within that discipline.”

As a chair holder, Osborn said he has a platform that has allowed him to work with a diverse range of faculty across different disciplines on a variety of subjects.

“We have been able to create a highly viable J.W. Fulbright program, and since 2008, we have won 17 of these highly competitive prestigious national awards,” he said. “We have created the Schroeder Summer Language Scholarships for Global Business and the Hanson Summer Service scholarships for all undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Johnston Center. Thus far, 26 summer language-study awards have been given and 21 service awards. All of this has been possible because the chair itself offers the holder the flexibility to pursue and develop programs that benefit the University and our students.”

Osborn corresponds regularly with the Hunsakers to keep them updated on what students and faculty are working on, and he meets with Rich at least twice a year for in-depth discussions on what is happening in the department.

“Both Rich and Ginnie follow the progress of our programs, and this means a great deal to me personally,” he said. Professor Walter Hutchens is the inaugural holder of the University Endowed Chair in Global Business, joining the faculty in January 2013. Hutchens still remembers a moment from the investiture ceremony when he was installed as chair, and Ginnie whispered to him before he stepped up to the podium.

“She said, ‘You don’t have to thank us,’” he said. “That’s characteristic of the Hunsakers. They are as gracious as they are generous. But of course, the whole point of the evening was to thank them! They’ve done so much to help future generations of students. I hope their example inspires others. Philanthropy, including creating more endowed chairs, is essential to Redlands’ future, and the world needs more Redlands students.”

The role of the Virginia Hunsaker Chair in Distinguished Teaching, currently held by Professor of Religious Studies Karen Derris, is different in that it provides support and resources for professors. Derris works with an advisory board of colleagues to develop workshops and lunches open to all faculty to address various topics in higher education.

“My goal as Hunsaker teaching chair is to create ongoing teaching opportunities for faculty to support the continual work necessary to bring excellence in teaching no matter what discipline they teach,” she said. “We learn from one another and come together to work on particular issues impacting our classes, and that enables us to have a wonderful collegiate atmosphere on campus.”

Their most recent lunch was a conversation on pedagogy supporting global learning, a topic of high interest at the University. “Dr. Kuncl has an internationalization initiative, and we discussed the work faculty and administration have been doing and the implications of what it means for us as teachers to foster global learning in the classroom,” Derris said.“Our lunch was very much designed to think about ways we can internationalize the University, and we shared ideas and practices and brainstormed what we might do in the near future to enhance that aspect across the curriculum.”

Her role as chair holder is quite distinct from her work as a professor, and Derris said having this experience is a “great benefit.”

“The nice thing about this endowed chair, and now the new scholarship gift from the Hunsakers, is they are examples of a very holistic commitment to the institution,” she said. “The Hunsakers not only want to make it possible for excellent students to attend the University of Redlands but also are committed to making sure the education the students receive here is of the highest quality, as teaching is a skill and an art form, and teachers need ongoing support and resources to continually evolve.”

A Culture of Philanthropy

The Hunsakers have become part of University history with their substantial giving of both time and funds, but neither is looking to become a celebrity. Rich said he doesn’t expect every student to know who he is, and added, “I didn’t even know a board member when I went to Redlands.” He is hopeful that anyone who hears about the $35 million gift is inspired to make their own gift after they graduate.

“We give to encourage others to give, and we like to be very evident in our giving,” Rich said.

“Giving is a personal thing—I wouldn’t tell someone to give their last cent to anyone. They might need it,” Ginnie said. “Wanting to give, that’s what’s important. When you want to give, you find a way.”

Dr. Appleton believes that the Hunsakers have been leading by example since their very first check.

“They create models of extraordinary philanthropy and have been gracious out of success to give at that level,” he said. “Whether $100 or $1 million, it gives evidence that every gift counts.”

The reach of the Hunsakers is widespread, and it’s not hard to find a person or place that is on campus because of their generosity. Whether it’s stopping by the Hunsaker Student Lounge or sitting in on a class taught by Osborn, Hutchens or Derris, the Hunsakers have helped shape the University of Redlands into the institution it is today.

“I’m gratified,” Rich said. “I’m glad to see my wife and I have been able to help increase the student body and create better buildings and university centers that attract students. The programs have improved, and that attracts students. I’m glad to see that. We’re both proud to be part of the reason why it happened.”

During its R Story Homecoming Celebration, the University of Redlands announces that Richard and Virginia Hunsaker, class of 52, have conferred upon the University its single largest gift–$35 million to fund the institution Hunsaker Scholarship Prize—described by President Ralph Kuncl as a “transformational gift that will allow the institution to keep a Redlands education affordable for deserving and talented students.



LISTEN: Unbounded,(2014) a musical tribute to the magnanimous spirit of Richard and Virginia Hunsaker composed by School of Music Professor Anthony Suter (b. 1979)

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  • How inspiring to read of such generosity and graciousness. Great feature.