Dispatches from a Pandemic
“ The Alumni Center will be the place where Tritons will return , after we all return .”
I ’ VE BEEN retired for some time now , so the pandemic ’ s impact on my life is not as profound as it is for those in the midst of a career or raising a young family . I ’ m very grateful that my wife , adult children , and their children are all healthy . Our two sons are in jobs considered essential and can work within social distancing requirements ; one of our daughters did front office work in a small manufacturing company that suspended operations , while our other daughter and her husband own a small catering company — that ’ s on hold , and event catering is certain to recover late in the reopening of commerce . We are fortunate to be in a position to help them bridge the gap , should they need it , but some of their employees face real difficulties meeting basic needs , with no back-up available to meet them .
This last point , driven by the pandemic , brings into stark relief an issue that needs a serious national dialogue and effort to mitigate . Far too many people in this wealthy country are already insecure in meeting basic human needs . And we ’ re about to see a dramatic rise in the number of people who will find themselves in that position . We can , and must , do better than just getting “ back to normal .” What that will look like in the details of economic policy , I don ’ t know — but I ’ m certain that it starts with compassion .
As alumni , we have a natural role to play in this larger endeavor . UC San Diego , along with the entire UC system , made a commitment to give all qualified undergraduate applicants access to the university , regardless of financial status . 38 % of undergraduates admitted to UC San Diego in 2019 are first-generation college attendees , and coming from an underserved community or being the first student in a family to graduate from college has a powerful positive effect on the family and their community .
At a great university like ours , engaged alumni provide a key support system for succeeding generations of students from every background . Mentorship , career guidance , financial support , employment opportunities , and networking are among the things we can help provide , and engaging with these bright students is always a very gratifying experience .
Over the years that I ’ ve been on the Alumni Board , I have seen major growth in our campus leadership ’ s investment in alumni engagement . Chancellor Khosla is a firm believer that engaged alumni are key to UC San Diego ’ s sustained excellence . We ’ ve long desired a dedicated Alumni Center to raise the profile of alumni to the campus , and the campus to alumni . To that end , the centerpiece of the forthcoming Triton Pavilion plan is to be an iconic Alumni Center building . For the past few years , I have represented the alumni perspective on the Pavilion Building Advisory Board — it was a fascinating recursive exercise , matching purpose to outcome on all facets : form , function , aesthetics , cost , value , and so many other factors that go into a project of this scale .
Unfortunately , the COVID-19 pandemic will delay this project , but not too long , I hope . I do believe that Triton Pavilion will provide the creative intersection to make a true center for the campus . And I still look forward to the day when the Alumni Center will be the place where Tritons will return , after we all return — to make a difference in the lives of students , and make the better world we are all now waiting for .
Sheldon Engelhorn ’ 72 was a biology major at Revelle College . He worked at various life science companies until 1987 , when he and Richard Chan ’ 74 co-founded the research tools company NOVEX , which merged with ThermoFisher . A former UC Regent , Engelhorn was past president and now is a current member of the UC San Diego Alumni Board of Directors , as well as an avid surfer . Read his online profile about surfing at tritonmag . com / sheldon
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