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Blair Hull Speaking at the 2016 UCSB Commencement

‘Quant’ Alumnus Supports Something Personal

Trustee Blair Hull ’65 advances social justice through UCSB’s feminist studies

Blair Hull ’65 is a principled man. Merging idealism with pure pragmatism, Hull employs a systematic approach to his financial decision-making.  The self proclaimed “quant” (read: quantitative analyst), gives thoughtful consideration to all of his investments, including the one he made in UC Santa Barbara. 

“I could have given financial support to a variety of institutions in my field of quantitative finance,” said Hull, the founder and chairman of Ketchum Trading, LLC, “but this project was more meaningful to me.”

Hull is referring to the Hull Chair in Women’s Studies (now feminist studies), which supports a UCSB faculty member working to advance the understanding of women, gender and social justice. Inspired by his late mother, Jean Matlock Hull, and his three daughters, the chair represents one of Hull’s greatest concerns: the struggle for equality. 

“My understanding of the need to level the playing fields started at an early age,” said Hull in his 2016 UCSB Commencement address. “In the 1950s, my mother was one of a few married women who worked outside the home. She worked for the California State Department of Employment, helping people get jobs. I saw the discrimination that she faced every day, not only in the workplace but at home. My father expected her to do all the cooking and housework in addition to holding down a full-time job. And it wasn’t fair.”

Hull’s three daughters also inspired his desire to do more. His oldest daughter, Kristin, co-founded the Nia Community Fund with the goal of bringing impact investing to the public markets. His middle daughter, Megan, stepped forward in a class action lawsuit against Brown University in 1992. She played a large role and testified before Congress in 1995 about the university’s discrimination against women in their intercollegiate athletics program and violating Title IX of the Education Amendments. She continues to fight for voter and redistricting rights throughout the U.S. Hull’s youngest daughter, Courtney, who 10 years later played on the same Brown University volleyball team that would not have existed without her older sister’s actions, is now engaged as a social entrepreneur and helping startups. 

Fairness is the driving force behind Hull’s philanthropy and also the research of Hull chairholder, Eileen Boris. As a feminist studies professor, Boris rejects limiting definitions and explores how feminist studies intersect with other disciplines. She also examines the “racialized gendered state,” which describes identities as interwoven rather than separate. 

“If women's studies is to be about all women,” said Boris in 2001, “[then] it must realize that all women are not the same.” 

Today, Boris continues to serve as the appointed Hull chairholder (and the first women’s studies chairholder in the UC system); she admits it’s a great honor and great responsibility. Boris uses payouts from the endowment to support her research and enhance the intellectual programming of the department; in fact, her work is sustained through the contributions of Hull, who chooses to give more each year to the endowed chair. 

“Eileen is a very dynamic woman doing lots of things,” observed Hull.  “You have some fabulous women on the faculty.”

Those women include feminist studies professor Leila J. Rupp, who also serves as the Interim Dean of Social Sciences. Rupp witnessed Hull’s 2016 Commencement speech and called it “inspiring, moving, deeply personal, and also political in the best sense of the word.” She asserted that “[no] one could have illustrated more powerfully the potential to change the world by confronting injustice.” 

The passion for social justice runs deep, motivating faculty like Rupp and Boris to educate students on inequities that pervade. Similarly, Hull charges the next generation of Gauchos to lead the way toward greater freedom and equality; he believes “the world is crying out for their bold and fearless leadership.” 

“Maintain your belief in yourselves,” Hull advised the Class of 2016, “and in the fact that you can create real, dramatic change.” 

Hull’s life is a testament to that change: As a philanthropist, political activist, and UC Santa Barbara Foundation Trustee, Hull is doing his part to fight for equality.