Donor Spotlight: David and Margaret Engel

David and Margaret Engel There are countless people who, having served in the Navy in San Diego, try to figure out how to get back here. David and Margaret Engel are among those who succeeded, and are grateful for the circumstances that enabled them to do so. "The reason why we have this nice home and can support UC San Diego," says David, "is because while I was a professor of periodontics in the dental school at the University of Washington, I had the good fortune of starting a company with two partners." The company, GEMTech (later Optiva), developed, patented and manufactured the Sonicare toothbrush.

"Being part of a young, garage-operation start-up was fun," says Margaret, "then we moved to a space that Microsoft was in when they were young. We thought it would be good luck!" It was, and in 2000, Optiva was purchased by Phillips Corporation.

With David now retired from the university, they moved to Bozeman, Montana, where, says Margaret, "we became full-time volunteers doing wildlife conservation work. When you love critters, you eventually become concerned about habitat conservation, and in the Rockies we saw the early indicators of how climate change was affecting the environment." While they loved the mountains, they were also spending time in San Diego, and decided it was time to choose.

So they permanently moved to the coast and brought their passion for conservation with them. In addition to their involvement with The San Diego Foundation and other nonprofits, they were spending time on the UC San Diego campus and became interested in the work at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "In awe" of the impressive graduate students they met, they made a gift in 2015 to help young scientists attend the COP 21 climate change conference in Paris. They were introduced to several of the students who attended the conference, and were delighted with the reports they shared.

And hooked. Shortly after, they converted the sale of Facebook stock to a gift, establishing the David and Margaret Engel Student Prize Fund. This endowed fund is earmarked specifically to provide awards to Scripps Oceanography students, to enable them to travel to conferences, and/or take advantage of other opportunities related to their work.

"I really felt this was valuable," says David. "I know firsthand how important it is for young scientists to go to conferences and meet the people whose papers and textbooks they've been studying. It has a great impact on how you think about your work."

And they were hooked again. "When we were re-doing our trust this year," says David, "we decided we wanted to be more supportive of UC San Diego/Scripps grad students." So in addition to generously funding programs in their Washington and Minnesota alma maters, they have made plans in their estate to establish the David and Margaret Doctoral Fellowship in Climate Science Endowment.

"We're grandparents," says Margaret, "and that makes you think about the future. Suddenly climate change becomes very personal." They're tackling the issues on multiple fronts: They formed STAY COOL for Grandkids, an organization of like-minded grandparents and other seniors who meet bi-monthly to learn from local climate experts, including Scripps Oceanography climate scientists. STAY COOL members are active in the community, supporting municipal climate action plans and working to increase climate change education in our public schools.

Endowment, Stock