Alumnus David Eckles Gives $1 Million to Expand Haas Programs for Under-Resourced Youth

Haas alumnus and longtime Berkeley booster David Eckles, MBA 73, has given $1 million to the Haas School to expand its successful mentoring program for under-resourced youth through several new initiatives to be coordinated by the Undergraduate Program.

Eckles' gift creates an endowment and provides funding for startup operations for the new Office of Pre-College Programs in the Undergraduate Program. The mission of the office is to create a stronger, clearer path to college, and Haas in particular, for under-resourced youth, building on the success of the school's 23-year-old Young Entrepreneurs at Haas (YEAH) mentoring programs for middle school and high school students. YEAH will be one of several programs operated under the new office.

Eckles' gift also is creating a $100,000 Diversity and Social Impact Fund for smaller projects proposed by different Haas School units and student groups to enhance the diversity of the Haas community.

Eckles is president of the Blueprint for Communities Foundation, a private foundation providing micro-grants to individuals and small nonprofit organizations in need. He is also a retired founder and CEO of Helm Financial, one of the largest privately held rail equipment lessors in North America. In addition to giving to YEAH, he has been a generous supporter of Cal Athletics and Cal Performances.

"We are deeply grateful for David Eckles’ generous contribution to our school," says Dean Rich Lyons. "Though differences can present challenges, we at Berkeley-Haas see them as a source of strength and innovative ideas. Diversity is also central to the core mission of the University of California. David's gift will enable us to map additional pathways to college and to the Haas School for student who might not otherwise have access."

Students who participate in YEAH programs typically are the first in their families to attend college, live in low-income households, attend public schools, and earn average grades. The program boasts an impressive record, with 100 percent of students who complete the program graduating from high school and going to college.

"YEAH has been a very, very successful program. It has impacted the lives of a tremendous number of inner-city youth, some of whom have never ridden BART, don't know how to use an ATM, or don't know where their next meal will be from. They need a helping hand, and this program provides that, says Eckles, who was recruited by then-Dean Ray Miles to serve on YEAH's first board in 1997.

"The new Office of Pre-College Programs will better integrate YEAH into the undergraduate curricula and give it greater visibility to enlist corporate sponsorships in regards to after-school programs and summer jobs," Eckles adds.

The Office of Pre-College Programs already has begun working on one new initiative called the College Ambassador Program to support YEAH graduates after they begin college. This year, YEAH plans to create a network of ambassadors—YEAH and Haas graduates—at the colleges where the YEAH class of 2012 will attend to provide the class with support. Starting in 2013, the office also plans to give each YEAH graduate a laptop computer.

In addition, the Office of Pre-College Programs and Undergraduate Program staff are teaming up with Haas Senior Lecturer Sara Beckman to employ techniques from her Problem Finding Problem Solving course to develop new programs to better serve under-resourced youth. MBA students will lend their expertise next March when their Design and Innovation Strategy Club will hold a one-day open innovation workshop to attack this question for YEAH: How can we equip under-resourced young people with skills, information and opportunities to succeed in a world of college and beyond?

The goal is to launch a few pilot projects in fall 2013.

"Undergraduate and MBA students already serve as YEAH mentors, but we believe there are many other ways we can tap their knowledge and enthusiasm," say YEAH Executive Director Jennifer Bevington. "David Eckles' generous gift enables us to work more closely across Haas to expand our work with under-resourced youth."

Bevington notes that creation of the Office of Pre-College Programs builds on stronger connections that YEAH has been building with the Undergraduate Program in recent years. Four years ago, Haas Lecturer Frank Schultz and Lucas Abbott, director of YEAH's high school program, launched a Competitive Strategy course in which Schultz teaches undergrads in the fall and then the undergrads teach YEAH high-school students similar material and serve as mentors the following spring semester.

YEAH also has been working more closely with the Haas School's Center for Financial Management and Reporting (CFRM) and Ernst & Young on a conference called LAUNCH Your Career. The conference introduces underrepresented UC Berkeley and community college students to careers and opportunities in accounting and finance, and pathway to get there. CFRM Executive Director Maria Nondorf and Haas Assistant Accounting Professor Alastair Lawrence also teamed up with YEAH to create a financial literacy curriculum for middle-school students last fall.

Another partner that Bevington hopes to team up with more in the future is the Oakland Athletics. The baseball team donated several items to YEAH's annual golf tournament on Nov. 13, helping to raise $30,000. Charles “Chili” Davis, a three-time World Series champion and A's hitting coach, served as honorary tournament chair. 


Alumnus David Eckles