For Julie Shin-Morgan ‘89 and Brad Morgan Ph.D. ’91, one of the pleasures of being Cal parents is seeing how their alma mater has changed since their own days on campus in the 1980s. From the growth of the student population to more innovative curricula to advances in technology — no more standing in line at Sproul Hall to register for classes! — the Morgans have also enjoyed seeing Berkeley through the fresh eyes of their daughter, Alexandra, now a fourth-year student who will graduate in May.
Shin-Morgan was pursuing her bachelor’s degree in political science and Morgan was getting his doctorate in chemistry when they met at an off-campus party, introduced by another chemistry grad student. Their first date was at Caffé Intermezzo, now Mezzo, on Telegraph Avenue. “Being a graduate student at Berkeley was a life-changing experience,” Morgan remembers. “It was such a dramatic departure from the Middle America I knew growing up in Champaign, Illinois — the diversity of people, the incredible variety of food.”
‘A growing need to give back’
Shin-Morgan, who grew up in a tough area of central Los Angeles, is especially grateful for the opportunity she had to study at a top-tier institution like Berkeley. “My tuition was paid for and I received scholarships to cover the rent,” she recalls. “My Cal degree is what got me out of that neighborhood. So, as the years have passed, I’ve felt a growing need to give back.”
The couple started out by making small gifts to campus but, as they each became more successful in their careers, their gifts grew and reflected their growing interest in providing the best possible experience for Berkeley students.
Those gifts have generously supported several areas of campus, but two funds are especially close to their hearts and have received the majority of their support. “Brad and I chose to support the L&S Undergraduate Advising Fund after being shocked to hear that there’s a 1-to-800 adviser-to-student ratio,” Shin-Morgan recalls. “Students need guidance, especially as incoming freshmen who are away from home for the first time.”
The couple also created the Shin-Morgan Family Undergraduate Research Fund because “we wanted to support research at the undergraduate level — Brad had opportunities to share his knowledge and work with undergraduate research assistants back in his grad student days.”
“Julie Shin-Morgan and Brad Morgan represent the best in alumni philanthropy,” says Nadean Lindberg, assistant dean of development for undergraduate studies at the College of Letters & Science. “Not only are they supporting programs that gave them their own transformational experiences but, as parents of a current Berkeley student, they’re providing funds to ensure that those same opportunities and programs are available to today’s undergraduates.”
Embrace the experience
As Cal parents, the Morgans have attended athletic events and lectures and enjoyed the local food scene. Shin-Morgan is involved with the California Alumni Association, where she reads scholarship applications and with the Cal Parent Philanthropy and Engagement office, where she makes welcome calls to freshmen parents as a Cal Parents Ambassador.
Today, Morgan is vice president at Cytokinetics, a firm specializing in muscle biology therapies, and Shin-Morgan is second vice president of claim services and workers’ compensation product at the Travelers Companies.
The Morgans stress the importance of supporting an intellectual powerhouse like Berkeley. “It promotes diversity, free speech, innovation, and tolerance,” Shin-Morgan says. “How can you create for the future unless you’re open to all the possibilities?”
Besides giving back with time and donations, Shin-Morgan advises new and future Cal parents to “embrace the experience. Be there for your child and encourage them to get everything they can out of Cal. Go to the games — and when we chant ‘Bear Territory,’ you’d better chant along!”