Advocating For Progress

Ed SpriggsEd Spriggs ’70 understands the challenges of a biracial identity. But attending UC San Diego as the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power ramped up solidified for Ed the importance of community development, and it continues to influence his advocacy for Black students on campus.

“The dynamics of having a Black father and a white mother were part of my upbringing and search for identity,” Ed says. “We do not live in a postracial society. Everyone has to choose a path and identity that is meaningful for them, and choose how to best use one’s time and life energy, for those lucky enough to have such choices.”

As a child in a low-income, working-class family, Ed’s dreams were bigger than the world around him: He dreamed about becoming an aerospace engineer or an astronaut. So, when he enrolled at UC San Diego, it was as an aerospace engineering major. During his first two years on campus he worked in the AMES Lab, where he saw an academic research environment firsthand. But he also saw a disconnect between his work in the lab and his activism, including demonstrations taking place below the lab in Revelle Plaza. Ed realized he had to make a choice between launching humanity into space or helping drive justice and equality for Black Americans. He chose justice.

“The lab and my faculty and staff friends there were in a different world,” Ed says. “I questioned whether that disconnect was something I wanted to support — it played a major role in helping me decide I needed to make a change.”

Amidst the social tumult, antiwar protests and Black Power Movement of the 1960s, Ed and the handful of other African American students on campus decided to form the Black Student Union (BSU). With Ed as the founding chair, BSU had two main goals: recruit more Black students and engage other underrepresented students. But Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination changed everything.

“We really lost our fear and meekness, maybe our innocence, in addressing our concerns,” Ed says. “If our most moderate leader was subject to assassination, we needed to reexamine what we were doing and our goals. For us, UC San Diego needed to transform to be more ‘relevant’ to the tremendous needs and disparities facing people of color everywhere, not just the few on campus.”

With renewed vigor, he and his peers pushed for Third College to focus on the experiences and needs of people of color. The planning for Third College became more inclusive after a year of demonstrations. But where would the students come from? Ed lead the establishment of a student-run outreach program with the San Diego Unified School District, where they encouraged underrepresented K-12 students to consider college and take the right courses. Based on its early successes, Ed convinced the campus to fund the project, resulting in 18 Black and other student of colorvolunteers being hired to continue these outreach efforts.

Today, Ed remains committed to delivering transformative experiences for Black students. His support of the UC San Diego Black Alumni Scholarship Fund — held in endowment at The San Diego Foundation — ensures that recipients have access not just to financial support, but to enrichment experiences including faculty and peer mentoring, experiential learning and Summer Bridge. And because Ed makes charitable gifts through his IRA, the entirety of his gift supports student scholarships and programs — and he doesn’t need to write checks and claim tax deductions.

“The best way for me to continue my commitment to giving is turning my required minimum distribution into qualified charitable distributions,” says Ed. “Those funds go directly to charities while also increasing my capacity to give. I am transforming a taxable event into a nontaxable event for causes I believe in and they just come right out of my IRA. It has expanded my opportunity and mechanism for giving.”

“My life has taught me that advocacy, partnerships, volunteerism, philanthropy and mentoring can make big institutions better than they are,” Ed says. “I believe in UC San Diego and its mission, but I also believe we can and should be doing more to increase access to transformative experiences for our students of color.”

If you would like information on how you can create your own legacy at UC San Diego, contact the Office of Gift Planning at (858) 534-2249 or