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Investing by Intuition

The Troxels establish the Troxel Family Chair in Theoretical Physics

Call it intuition, call it a hunch, but Doug and Deborah Troxel are betting on a solution that hasn’t been discovered yet. They believe the future of clean energy depends on physics.

“It’s a gut feel,” says Doug. “I do think there is a way of extracting energy from atoms, the smallest building blocks.”

The Troxels are investing $1 million in this provocative possibility. Their endowed chair, the Troxel Family Chair in Theoretical Physics, will support a KITP physicist engaged in fundamental research. Their instinct is that the kind of creative scientific inquiry done at the KITP might some day provide insights into new forms of renewable energy – and like solar, wind, and water energy sources, the Troxels believe the atom holds the key.

“It’s future tense,” concedes Doug. “It’s not what [KITP] is doing right now. I just hope it’s in my lifetime.”

The Troxels’ history with UC Santa Barbara dates back several decades. In fact, Deborah is an alumna who majored in biology.

“I did go to UCSB so my allegiance, of course, was to my university,” says Deborah. “I was anxious to get Doug involved there.”

Deborah’s introduction was fortuitous. Doug gravitated toward physics (he majored in mathematics and minored in physics at Iowa State University) and therefore KITP was a natural fit. Meeting KITP Director Lars Bildsten and David Gross, Nobel Laureate and Permanent Member of the KITP, served to deepen the Troxels’ relationship with the Institute.

“I get something out of it, they get something out of it,” remarks Doug, who is founder and former Chief Executive and Chief Technology Officer of Serena Software, Inc. The retired software developer is president of his family foundation, Change Happens, and splits his time between California and Hawaii with Deborah. The Troxels are actively engaged with the KITP community and often attend events and lectures when they are in Santa Barbara.

“You have to trust that what you’re doing is the right thing,” says Doug. “Philanthropy is like planting a seed and a tree grows up that you might never see.”

The Troxels’ mission, like their family foundation, is to invest in pioneering programs and forward-thinking projects. Their endowed chair is just another example of their visionary philanthropy.

So how do they know when they’ve found the right fit for their philanthropic investment?

By intuition.

“We know it when we see it,” says Doug.