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$2 Million Gift to Spark Entrepreneurship at UC Davis

November 2, 2009

Photo: Andrew Hargadon in front of the new GSM building.

Andrew Hargadon is the first holder of the Charles J. Soderquist Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis photo)

The UC Davis Graduate School of Management has $2 million in new seed money to spark entrepreneurship in California, thanks to a gift from the estate of Charles J. Soderquist, a UC Davis alumnus who founded and led several dozen high-tech companies in the greater Sacramento area.

Half of the $2 million will establish an endowment to support the management school's Center for Entrepreneurship, and the rest will be used to create the Charles J. Soderquist Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship.

Soderquist received his master’s degree in 1973 and his doctorate in 1978, both from UC Davis in environmental chemistry. He died in 2004.

“Although I did not have the good fortune to know Mr. Soderquist personally, I am grateful for his many years of dedication to UC Davis,” Chancellor Linda Katehi said. “Philanthropic support, like that from the Soderquist estate, is critical to the growth of programs and helps to move us even higher within the top tier of the nation’s public research universities.”

Steven Currall, dean of the Graduate School of Management, said this gift will contribute to the momentum of the UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship.

“This is a trailblazing gift that will catapult the center to higher levels of recognition and achievement,” he said.

The Center for Entrepreneurship got its start in the winter of 2004 when Soderquist, Graduate School of Management Professor Andrew Hargadon and Sacramento-based venture capitalist Scott Lenet co-taught a course that mixed Graduate School of Management students with graduate students from the life sciences and engineering program on campus. Students learned under the guidance of experienced entrepreneurs, investors and corporate leaders. Soderquist shared his experiences in launching new companies, along with his vision for how science and business could mix at UC Davis.

“The idea was to create a program that would not just teach entrepreneurship but create entrepreneurs,” said Hargadon, who has served as the center's director since its inception. He assumed the Charles J. Soderquist Endowed Chair on Nov. 1. “We felt that UC Davis, with all of its science and engineering talent, could blossom if entrepreneurs helped bring those ideas out of the laboratories and into the broader world.”

Since then, the center has enrolled more than 40 doctoral candidates in the Business Development Fellows program (a yearlong series of courses and intensive weeklong “boot camps”) and more than 300 national and international participants in its entrepreneurship academies. These scientists and engineers have turned their ideas into action, fostering the development of such innovations as energy-efficient LED street lighting, technology that can turn wastewater into biodegradable plastics, and designs for high-efficiency solar cells, among many other projects.

“Charlie would have been proud to see the Center for Entrepreneurship blossom as it has,” said Chancellor Emeritus Larry Vanderhoef, who counted Soderquist as a close friend and was instrumental in establishing the endowed chair. “He was passionate about so many things, including the promise of science and technology to make this world a better place.”

Soderquist often defined entrepreneurship as “the art of business,” and he tirelessly engaged entrepreneurs to replicate themselves. The center married two of his passions — entrepreneurship and UC Davis.

Soderquist’s enthusiasm extended from the science, business and investment communities to education, art, literature and the environment. He was a staunch supporter of his alma mater and served as chair of the UC Davis Foundation, a volunteer-led organization that receives private gifts to benefit UC Davis and manages its endowed gift funds and other private assets. He also served as president of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association and as an alumni representative to the UC Board of Regents.

Hargadon said he only wishes Soderquist could have seen that first class become a program that continues to grow and engage UC Davis students and scholars from around the world.

“There is nothing more fitting — nor more moving to me — than to have Charlie's name and continuing support attached to the program he helped create,” Hargadon said.

About the UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship

The Center for Entrepreneurship is one of three Centers of Excellence at the Graduate School of Management. It is a nexus for entrepreneurship education and research — and a springboard for entrepreneurial ventures — on the UC Davis campus and beyond. The center teaches scientists and engineers how to move their ideas out of the lab and into the world. Through a set of programs, the center provides researchers with the necessary skills and knowledge to launch a venture, commercialize their research and prepare for a career in industry. Science, engineering and business students work together with experienced entrepreneurs, investors and corporate leaders in an environment that blends effective theory with hands-on participation and solution-driven innovation. http://entrepreneurship.ucdavis.edu

About the UC Davis Graduate School of Management

Established in 1981, the Graduate School of Management has enjoyed growing national and international prominence. U.S. News & World Report has ranked it among the top 50 public and private business schools for the past 14 years. It moved up to 40th place in the magazine's latest survey. The school has 120 students enrolled in a daytime MBA program at Gallagher Hall at the UC Davis campus and more than 450 working professional students at campuses in Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. Three Centers of Excellence are devoted to research and activities that have a powerful impact on the business world and enrich the curriculum with hands-on learning opportunities for students: UC Davis Center for Investor Welfare and Corporate Responsibility, the UC Davis MBA Consulting Center and the UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship. http://www.gsm.ucdavis.edu

About UC Davis

For 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has 31,000 students, an annual research budget that exceeds $500 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges — Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science — and advanced degrees from six professional schools — Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

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