The Gift of Experience
John Arnhold ’75 spent only two years as a student at UC Santa Barbara — a relatively brief tenure that nonetheless made quite an impression. Together, the alumnus and his wife, Jody, have been impacting the university in return for more than a decade.
From the Departments of English and of Theater and Dance, to UCSB Arts & Lectures, the UCSB Library and even student organizations, the Arnholds, members of the university’s Gold Circle Society, are making a lasting philanthropic mark on UC Santa Barbara.
That extends to athletics, and tennis in particular; the sport is one of John’s passions. He is past chairman of the board of the International Tennis Hall of Fame and is beginning his third season as volunteer assistant coach to the UCSB Women’s Tennis team. A longtime supporter of student-athlete scholarships and awards, John just this year made a major leadership gift to fund a brand-new tennis complex on campus that will enhance the experience of players and spectators alike.
In every area that they touch, the Arnholds’ expansive generosity to the university is part and parcel of their philanthropic ethos.
“I often say that I don’t consider myself to be a philanthropist because I look at that as somebody who primarily gives money, and to me it’s not about that,” said John, who visits classes and attends student performances whenever he’s on campus. “I want to be involved in institutions where I can have an impact, organizations that are really open to embracing new ideas. I find that UCSB is very receptive to our ideas, willing to take some chances, and we get a lot of bang for our buck. And there is so much going on out there. Every time I visit, I come up with more things I want to do."
Growing up in a family that valued and supported the arts, John, from a young age, was immersed in the cultural life of New York City. He was hooked.
Later, as an English major at UC Santa Barbara, he said he was inspired by professors who “enhanced his love of literature and performance.” Combining his passion for both, he landed a gig as arts and entertainment editor at The Daily Nexus, the campus’s student paper — “the best job I have ever had,” he’s been known to joke.
In those early experiences, perhaps, the seeds were sown for what is now John and Jody’s extraordinary support for UC Santa Barbara.
With a master’s degree in dance education from Columbia University’s Teachers College, Jody Gottfried Arnhold was a dance teacher in New York City’s public school system for nearly 25 years. Today, she is a true luminary of dance education — perhaps the premier dance educator in the country. She is a recipient of the National Dance Education Organization’s Visionary Award and is the creator of the Arnhold Graduate Dance Education Program at Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also created a doctoral program and policy institute at Teacher’s College.
Jody’s passion for dance has been transformative for UC Santa Barbara, which has seen visits from the nation’s top performance groups and artists-in-residence, courtesy of the Arnholds’ generosity. In addition, the couple every year sponsors UCSB students to participate in a summer dance intensive at New York’s 92nd Street Y Dance Education Laboratory, of which Jody is the founder.
“Dance requires creativity, collaboration, improvisation, risk-taking and problem-solving,” Jody said. “The arts are critical to education. It’s STEAM — science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics — not STEM. Dance should be at the table whenever education is discussed."
Indeed, the arts and humanities have been a focal point of the Arnholds’ philanthropy to the campus. Their gifts to the English department have created opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in research, helped to train graduate students and supported curricular advances.
They endowed a production fund in theater and dance that will safeguard the department’s performance programs and they are frequent sponsors of UCSB Arts & Lectures.
The Arnholds also have invested significantly in creative curricular initiatives within the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts — including a series of immersive, interdisciplinary team-taught courses — that are truly changing the nature of undergraduate education at UC Santa Barbara.
The breadth is astounding. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We do a lot in New York, of course, and we have made large global commitments through our family’s Mulago Foundation and longstanding deep engagement with Conservation International,” John said. “But somehow, I am always looking for ways to work with UCSB. I’m always happy and fully engaged when I’m on campus. I love the stimulating atmosphere and I like thinking through big picture issues with young people who enjoy grappling with them also.”