This Year’s Give Day Marked by Emergency

For the past three years, the combination of Picnic Day and Give Day has been a fun, colorful, delicious celebration of all we love about UC Davis while strengthening the university’s future through philanthropy.


Give Day lettering in blue and gold


  • WHEN: Noon Friday, April 17, to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 18. Early gifts welcome.
  • WHERE: Online

This year, however, Picnic Day has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And the fourth annual Give Day is going it alone — as an all-online celebration — offering alumni, faculty, staff and others a way to celebrate and support UC Davis by way of emergency funds and a multitude of other programs and funds.

As the public health crisis of the coronavirus hit in March, Give Day planners set up emergency funds to help students with such critical needs as food, housing and access to online classes. Emergency support also went to medical professionals and students at UC Davis Health who are working on the front lines and in laboratories to save lives and find solutions.

The UC Davis community rose to the challenge, donating nearly $70,000 in three weeks.

“I am so proud of the way our community is pulling together,” Chancellor Gary S. May said. “Whether through donating or volunteering, we are all doing our best to take care of one another and see that those who need help, get it.”

While emergency funds are a vital option this Give Day, philanthropic support is still greatly needed for teaching, research and service programs across the Davis and Sacramento campuses. The decision to carry on with Give Day was made with that need in mind.

Again, the UC Davis community is rallying to the call. This year’s Give Day features more than 150 challenge gifts — more than ever before. Challenge gifts make contributions of any size go further by “unlocking” larger amounts put forth by community donors.

“We encourage people to give to the programs they care about,” said Shaun Keister, vice chancellor of Development and Alumni Relations. “Gifts of any size have a direct and immediate impact. And they all serve to strengthen UC Davis as a world-class public university.”

Ultimately, Give Day is about keeping UC Davis strong to serve the public in times of emergency and beyond. The university’s expertise and research prowess are making a difference every day in addressing the ongoing public health crisis.

“But we must also remain strong in educating tomorrow’s leaders, including imparting such enduring skills as critical thinking, civic engagement, stewardship, creative expression and problem-solving,” Chancellor May said. “These skills run through all our disciplines and are essential not only to the value of higher education, but also to improving our world.”

Giving for emergencies

“Your gift to any of our emergency-need funds supports crucial resources and research that will mitigate the negative and varied consequences of COVID-19,” officials said in a letter on the Give Day website. “Gifts of any size make a difference.”

The funds include student hardship and relief funds, the UC Davis Medical Center COVID-19 Support Fund, and funds for the ASUCD Pantry and Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center; as well as the School of Medicine COVID-19 Research Fund.

Challenges related to COVID-19 include:

  • We Care Aggies Fund — Kristian Whitten will give $10,000 after 20 other gifts come in for this fund that supports the training of students to intervene with peers who are experiencing emotional distress potentially leading to risk of suicide.
  • Bob and Kinzie Murphy Student Basic Needs Challenge — With a goal of 100 gifts, this challenge could activate a total of $50,000 ($10,000 for every 20 donations that come in). The money will go into the Murphy Basic Needs Endowment, established by Bob ’63 and Kinzie ’64 Murphy to support the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center and The Pantry, and to provide financial assistance to students with food insecurity and housing emergencies.

A sampling of other challenges

  • Smart Farm Ag Robotics Student Team Challenge — Each set of five gifts will unlock a $500 donation from Professor David Slaughter and his wife, Susan — up to $2,500 — in support of the team’s participation in the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers’ Robotics Student Design Competition.  
  • Tube Sock Madness Challenge — As a nod to their time working together in the Aggie Pack, throwing tube socks into the stands at athletics contests, engineering alumni Trevor and Lindsay Longman ’09 created this challenge to support the College of Engineering’s mission to create a sustainable world through socially responsible engineering. Fifteen gifts will unlock the Longmans’ $2,500 gift to the college’s annual fund.
  • Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology Experiential Learning Challenge — Unique among research collections, the specimens in this museum are used to provide a variety of experiential learning opportunities for our students. Five gifts will unlock the first of two $5,000 donations, and five more will unlock the second $5,000.
  • Martha’s Challenge — Named after a cat, severely burned in the Camp Fire, saved through dedicated care at the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, and subsequently adopted by Stephanie Szmyd, who will donate $5,000 to the Veterinary Emergency Response Team if 50 other donors give to this challenge to help enable future rescues.
  • Ecogeomorphology Field Course Challenge — Charlotte Harvey will donate $6,000 if 30 other donors support this project to help send students on field trips that will bring their classroom learning to life. The first 15 gifts will activate $3,000, and the next 15 gifts will activate another $3,000!
  • Art Studio Challenge — Ten gifts will unlock $2,500 from Sheila and Nora Pallotta in support of the Art Studio Program, which delivers an array of classes that provide a critical introduction to research possibilities, as well as hands-on programs allowing students to explore a broad range of disciplines.
  • Global Tea Initiative Challenge — Ten gifts will unlock an $8,000 gift from the Two Leaves for Life Foundation, in support of the development of the UC Davis Global Tea Initiative to provide student tea curriculum, international research, sensory theatre, public events and more.

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Joan Fischer

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