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Paying It Forward

Paying It Forward

A longtime supporter of UCLA, Mary Hruby '65, '68 became a Bruin almost by chance. Finishing up at Santa Monica College, Mary went to the registrar's office intending to transfer to California State University, Long Beach. That's when the clerk asked her the question that changed her life, "With your grades, why aren't you going to UCLA?"

Mary was taken by surprise. "The thought had never crossed my mind," she says. Inspired by the idea, Mary entered UCLA as a transfer student and earned both a bachelor's and master's degree in sociology. She spent some time in the Ph.D. program before leaving to pursue a career in nonprofit management and public affairs.

While taking classes in Haines Hall and studying at the University Research Library, Mary honed her writing and data analysis skills. These served her well as a founding staff member of Crystal Stairs, Inc., a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization focused on child care and development, started by fellow UCLA alumni, Dr. Karen Hill Scott and Dr. Alice Walker Duff.

"Going to UCLA was a life-changing experience for me," Mary says. "The friendships, jobs and opportunities that came my way are all traceable back to the connections and education I got at UCLA."

Inspired Giving -- Mary has never forgotten that chance encounter in the SMC registrar's office. "I'm sure the person who steered me to UCLA is long gone," she says. "So, the only way I can thank that person is by supporting other people."

Mary's generosity to UCLA has taken many different forms. Starting with a $15 donation in 1980, she has contributed annually for more than four decades to a variety of causes including the Blue & Gold Challenge, the Bruin Guardian Scholars Fund, and the Barbara Yaroslavsky Memorial Fund.

A life member of the Alumni Association, Mary's donations have grown to include both a charitable gift annuity and a bequest in support of the Department of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

"I'm so proud of what the Luskin School has done," she says. "I love the opportunities for students to actually go out into the field and practice while they're still students." Mary knows that it's expensive to be a student these days, as tuition has shot up significantly since the $127 per semester she paid as an undergraduate.

"Lately, I've been focusing on scholarships," she says. "Scholarships are the gifts that keep on giving because students can complete their education, go out in the world and, hopefully, keep on giving."

In light of her personal experience, Mary is particularly passionate about donating to the UCLA Transfer Student Fund. "I'm really amazed by what the campus is doing to help transfer students succeed, not just with financial support, but also with access to other resources at the Transfer Student Center."

A Family of Donors -- In 2011, Mary contracted a near-fatal infection that landed her in the ICU at the UCLA Medical Center Westwood. She received critical interventions just in time. "UCLA saved my life -literally," Mary says.

Although Mary had been donating regularly to UCLA for decades, she began to seek out more substantial ways to give back in the years after that experience. Through the UCLA Office of Gift Planning, she learned about the benefits of a charitable gift annuity. She chose to donate the majority of the General Electric stock she inherited from her father to support the Department of Social Welfare in the Luskin School of Public Affairs.

"It's a win-win," Mary says. "The university gets the value of the stock, and you can declare a charitable donation and receive a nice tax-reduced annuity. It was just such a wonderful opportunity."

Mary has also chosen to remember UCLA in her will. "I come from a family of donors," she says. "My dad was a generous regular donor to the University of Notre Dame, and my mom donated to her college as well." Mary's father was able to finish his degree during the Depression thanks to a scholarship he received as editor of the Dome, Notre Dame's annual yearbook. Among his last bequests, was to endow that position in perpetuity.

"It's so important for me to give back," Mary says. "I always love when UCLA sends me videos of recent graduates whose smiling faces say, 'I was able to give up my part-time job because I got a scholarship.' To me that's the ultimate proof that I did give back."

Mary, a die-hard Bruin fan, has been encouraging her friend's teenage son to consider attending UCLA. This year, she gifted him with tuition to attend UCLA's summer program for high school students.

"The idea was to give him a sense of what college life is like," Mary says. "To me, it's opening an opportunity, just as that person at SMC did for me by saying, 'With your grades, why aren't you going to UCLA?' The experience blew him away and he made friendships with students from across the country. It was everything that I hoped it would be for him."


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