UC Davis Receives Unique, $1.5 Million Gift from Aggie Couple

UC Davis alums Michael and Joelle Hurlston
UC Davis alumni Michael and Joelle Hurlston have pledged $1.5 million to endow a first-of-its-kind chair position. (Photo: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • Aggie alums fund first-of-its-kind endowed chair position
  • Graduate School of Management, Department of Environmental Science Policy and College of Engineering to benefit
  • Part of a philanthropic plan to add 25 new endowed professorship or chair positions at UC Davis

The University of California, Davis, today announced a $1.5 million commitment from alumni Michael Hurlston ’88, M.B.A. ’90, M.S. ’91, and Joelle Hurlston ’89 to establish a first-of-its-kind endowed chair position benefiting three colleges and schools.

The Michael and Joelle Hurlston Presidential Chair will rotate between the three colleges and schools from which the donors earned their degrees. In five-year increments, the position will first support a faculty member in UC Davis’ Graduate School of Management, followed by the Department of Environmental Science and Policy in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and then the College of Engineering.

The UC Office of the President will also provide a $500,000 matching fund through the Endowed Faculty Leadership Initiative, bringing total funding for the Presidential Chair to $2 million. The Endowed Faculty Leadership Initiative is a philanthropic plan created by the University of California, the Office of the Chancellor at UC Davis and the UC Davis Foundation Board to add 25 new endowed professorship or chair positions at UC Davis.

A broad and important legacy

“Michael and Joelle Hurlston’s gift will be instrumental in helping us support faculty excellence in business and management research and education,” said Dean H. Rao Unnava of the Graduate School of Management. “In turn, those outstanding faculty members will help us prepare the next generation of leaders, continuing our legacy of graduating talented, creative problem-solvers.”

In each of the three colleges and schools, the Michael and Joelle Hurlston Presidential Chair will be used to recruit an outstanding scholar from outside the university, or will be awarded to a current faculty member to honor excellence. The chair funds may support teaching, research, graduate fellowships and outreach in the chair holder’s department.

“The enthusiasm and philanthropic support the Hurlstons have bestowed on our college as well as the College of Engineering and the Graduate School of Management reflect the collaborative spirit of our UC Davis community,” said Dean Helene Dillard of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “We are incredibly grateful to have them as part of our Aggie family.”

“In the last six years, UC Davis’ College of Engineering has undergone 40 percent growth in undergraduate majors, and we’re also working very hard to expand our graduate and research programs,” said Dean Jennifer Sinclair Curtis of the College of Engineering. “This growth creates a pressing need for more faculty. So we are very grateful for this gift, which will help us recruit and reward the best and brightest faculty.”

A UC Davis family

UC Davis has always been part of Michael and Joelle Hurlston’s life together. The couple lived next door to each other as students and quickly hit it off. Now, many of their fondest memories are of co-ed softball games, their first date at Symposium Pizza, and the study sessions where they got to snag extra time together despite finals.  

“We both feel very proud about having attended there, and we really love everything about UC Davis. It’s part of our story as a family, so it made a lot of sense to make this gift part of our legacy.” — Michael Hurlston

“Joelle and I share UC Davis in common,” said Michael Hurlston, who began serving on the Graduate School of Management Dean’s Advisory Council this year and volunteers with the College of Engineering as well. “We both feel very proud about having attended there, and we really love everything about UC Davis. It’s part of our story as a family, so it made a lot of sense to make this gift part of our legacy.”

Since graduating from UC Davis, Michael Hurlston has had a successful career first as an electrical engineer and then as a business leader. He currently serves as the senior vice president and general manager of Broadcom’s mobile connectivity and products division. Broadcom is a worldwide semiconductor company headquartered in the Silicon Valley. This year, the Graduate School of Management’s Alumni Association honored Hurlston with its Distinguished Achievement Award, recognizing the impact of his career accomplishments.

Joelle Hurlston works part time as a hazardous materials consultant, where her assignments include inspecting new facilities at state-of-the-art Silicon Valley manufacturing companies, among other tasks.

“We’ve obviously done very well from a financial and career standpoint, and this gift was a thank you to UC Davis for setting us on this track,” said Michael Hurlston. “And, with that, we wanted to recognize all three colleges that contributed to us as a family: the College of Engineering, where I started and also got a master’s; the Graduate School of Management, which was really instrumental for me as a leader and marketer; and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, which set Joelle up for the career that she embarked on.”

The Hurlstons said they chose to create an endowed chair because faculty members have the unique ability to influence and inspire a wide range of students, and this type of gift was easier to move from college to college.  

“We each had professors who had an impact on us, such as Richard Dorf in the Graduate School of Management or Sy Schwartz in Environmental Science and Policy, among others, and when we get together with college friends, they share similar stories about their professors,” said Joelle Hurlston. “So the idea of getting top-notch professors to UC Davis resonated with both of us as something we’d like to be a part of, helping to continue to grow the university’s already great academic offerings and reputation.”

The Hurlstons have two children: Shannon, who is studying cognitive neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, and Patrick, who is in high school but is considering UC Davis for college and wants to be a lawyer.

“Going forward, the future of society rests on having educated people,” said Joelle Hurlston. “And we, along with other alumni, need to give back to be part of the future that we want for our children.”

Media Resources

Sarah Colwell, Development and Alumni Relations, 530-752-9842, sccolwell@ucdavis.edu

Kimberly Hale, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-9838, klhale@ucdavis.edu

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