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For the Common Good

Louise ’77 and Stephen D. ’77 Pahl foster solutions to social challenges

Louise ’77 and Stephen D. ’77 Pahl believe deeply in the promise that scholarly research can forge a path toward solutions for the most pressing challenges of our time. And their generous legacy commitment will help the university’s Division of Social Sciences deliver on it.

By establishing the Pahl Initiative on the Study of Critical Social Issues at UC Santa Barbara, the couple will fund important interdisciplinary research and teaching on major social issues. The Pahls themselves are products of the social sciences at UC Santa Barbara, where Louise earned a degree in sociology and Stephen in business economics and political science.

“We wanted to give the gift for the Pahl Initiative in our lifetime so we could be a part of cutting-edge research for real world solutions,” said Louise, a trustee of the UC Santa Barbara Foundation who serves on the Bay Area Regional Leadership Committee. “We feel that this gift is timely with so many pertinent topics that are creating burdens on society. And we feel that it will be transformative for the Division of Social Sciences and hopefully will inspire others to give generously.”

Transformative indeed.

So concurred Charles Hale, the SAGE Sara Miller McCune Dean of Social Sciences. “Any well-conceived gift to the university builds on what’s there, builds on the principles in place, but also is transformative in allowing us to realize those principles in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise,” he said. “The Pahls’ gift is very much in that category.”

Starting with the 2019-2020 academic year, the Pahl Initiative will annually select one new proposal — the awards are competitive — for two years of funding. The inaugural project to be awarded, “Mass Shootings in America: Men, Masculinity, Guns and U.S. Gun Culture,” by Tristan Bridges, an assistant professor of sociology, is expected to yield new knowledge that will inform policymakers, activists and the public at large.

Which is exactly the idea, said the Pahls, who with Hale created the initiative to not only critically study these issues, but to provide real solutions.

“The value of the Pahl Initiative is that it blends traditional social science concepts together in an attempt to reach a comprehensive public policy solution,” Stephen said.

“We recently included UC Santa Barbara Foundation in our living trust with preference for continued support of the social sciences so we could continue to give to our passions and interests. We would like to see the Pahl Initiative grow and develop into the Pahl Center for the Study of Critical Social Issues in the future.”

“The overall goal of the project,” Stephen added, “is to explore real world issues and problems, and utilizing hard data related to the issue, develop potential solutions to remedy the issues on an empirical basis, rather than simply resorting to previously relied upon ‘soft’ solutions and arguments.”

Generous donors to the campus since 1990, the Pahls have focused their philanthropy on student support, endowing an undergraduate upper division “Making a Difference” award in social sciences and a graduate fellowship that rotates between the departments of political science, economics and sociology.

“Philanthropy allows us to dream big and to think outside the box with new ways of making systemic change,” agreed Louise and Stephen. “It is creating new relationships with diverse and cross discipline teams at UC Santa Barbara and partnerships and collaborations with other institutions. We want to help future generations and it is important for us to provide generous support after we’re gone. We are paying it forward by giving back.”