Good for the Soul
During her college days at UC Santa Barbara in the 1960s, Judith Stapelmann had a chance, brief meeting with artist and rancher Francis “Duke” Sedgwick, a friend of one of her professors. Decades later, she got her first chance to take a horseback ride around the impressive and massive Sedgwick Ranch in Santa Ynez.
With those memories in mind — and inspired by the property’s sweeping beauty — Stapelmann joined the local fundraising effort that in 1997 helped secure the ranch, in its entirety, for conservation by UCSB and the UC Natural Reserve System. The majority of the land Duke Sedgwick had already bequeathed to the campus.
Fast forward another two decades and Stapelmann, who earned bachelor’s (1963) and master’s (1965) degrees in biology from UCSB, remains a steadfast benefactor of the property now known as Sedgwick Reserve. Her generosity created and funds the Stapelmann Operating Endowment for the reserve, and also includes regular standalone gifts to support the ranch in myriad ways.
“This is definitely part of my overall interest in protecting open spaces and maintaining rangeland and ranch land, because I think those are important things that we’ll lose if we’re not vigilant,” said Stapelmann, who is a longtime trustee of the UC Santa Barbara Foundation. “This is part of my whole emphasis in life, I’d say. I’ve been lucky enough to have experiences in the wilderness and open country and being able to be out there, it’s good for the soul.”
“The land at Sedgwick is so diverse — the agriculture, the serpentine soils, the endemic species,” she added. “It’s a wonderful place that has so much to offer to the reserve system and to researchers from all over. And I think UCSB is a great place just in general, so I’ve been very glad to be involved in all these ways and as a trustee.”