Life-changing Event Inspires Gift to UC San Diego

Michael EstradaMichael Estrada '79 (Third College) has kept an eye on UC San Diego over the decades but largely from a distance. As he went on to earn an M.A. in Urban Planning from UCLA and a law degree at UC Berkeley, then eventually returned to Los Angeles to practice in the field of municipal law, he always felt the tug of his undergraduate home.

"For years I'd been looking for something to reconnect with at UC San Diego," he says, "but nothing caught my attention."

Timing and circumstance took care of that: While dealing with throat cancer treatments, he came across an article in an alumni publication in which a former classmate described his involvement with the Alternative Breaks program.

"This sounded interesting," he says, and his cancer gave him an extra push. "I recognized that it was time to start doing things I'd put off."

In addition to the discomfort of chemotherapy and radiation, the therapies that would save his life also took something away: His sense of taste, and the realization that he would miss the pleasure of the fine wines he'd been collecting for future enjoyment. And that got him thinking.

"It made me look at all the things that affected my life, and UC San Diego was an important one," he says.

In 2012, with his cancer defeated, Michael made a call to the director of the Center for Student Involvement, which oversees the Alternative Breaks program.

"It was the notion of the students' service, the alternative to just partying over spring break, that attracted me as a great thing," he says.

After making an initial donation in 2012, Michael was invited to the annual spring banquet, "and I was overwhelmed by the esprit de corps—the enthusiasm of the students for the program and the projects they participated in. That locked me in."

He began to support the program annually, and in 2015 he established an endowment that will enable students with financial need to participate in these opportunities. Michael has designated the Michael Estrada Alternative Breaks Scholarship Endowment as a beneficiary of his estate.

He has plans to live a long life—plans that include digging ditches in Appalachia alongside UC San Diego students this coming spring break. And with his cancer gone and sense of taste restored, he finds more everyday reasons to pop a special cork.

Create New Opportunities for UC San Diego Students

We're here to help you find a way to give back to UC San Diego through a gift in your estate plan. Contact the Office of Gift Planning at and (858) 534-2249 to learn more.

Beneficiary Designation, Endowment