A Never-Give-Up Spirit
You’ll never remember the people you sat next to in class, but you’ll never forget the guys you played next to on the football team, Coach “Cactus” Jack Curtice used to say. That premonition held true for Jim Barber ’67, Corky Barrett ’67, John Keever ’67, and Bart Weitzenberg ’68. With a team spirit that transcends sport or generation, football alumni have led two decades of philanthropy — despite the fact that UC Santa Barbara no longer has a football team.
Together, football alumni have helped build Harder Stadium’s Curtice Gate and supported over 52 scholarships. By staying together through the decades, they have enhanced the Gaucho experience for both students and the community of fans.
Under Jim’s leadership, football alumni began giving to UCSB Athletics in 2002 to honor former sports information director Donn “Bernie” Bernstein and his induction into the Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame. In turn, Bernie was the lead donor when UC Santa Barbara named the academic support wing of the Intercollegiate Athletics Building in honor of Jim and his wife, Cheryl ’66.
Over the past several years, friends and alumni of all sports have contributed to UCSB Athletics in memory of Jim, who passed away in 2016 from ALS. Jim made an enduring impact on campus as a board director of the UC Santa Barbara Alumni Association and a founding member of the athletics alumni letter winners’ board. After Bernie’s death in 2019, the fund was renamed the Barber-Bernstein Football Legacy Fund to honor Bernie and Jim together.
The magnitude of Bernie’s impact goes beyond his yearly gifts or the generous bequest he left UCSB Athletics. Bernie was a unifying figure who mentored student-athletes, sheltered alumni during Hurricane Sandy, and would invite entire teams to share pizza at his New York City apartment into his eighties.
Bernie joined UCSB Athletics in 1964. He was young, loud, uncoordinated, and within 15 seconds, the whole team loved him. It was almost like he went to school with them, reflected John. Bernie cajoled the media into covering campus sports and wrote thrilling stories about the Gauchos, who played in the iconic 1965 Camellia Bowl and finished that season 8-1. He attended practice, yelled on the sideline at games, and would become the soul of reunions.
“These are football players with no football team giving back to the athletic program,” said John. “It’s that connection in our life based on our education.”
“We all had a magical time at UC Santa Barbara not only playing football but getting a first-class degree,” said Bart. “After my UCSB education, I just sailed. A big part of our motivation with regard to the Barber-Bernstein Fund is to help students have that same experience.”
The Barber-Bernstein Fund supports scholarships that help UC Santa Barbara student-athletes be more than good competitors. Kayla Smith ’11,’13, who competed in track and field, notes that student-athletes and supporters share a strong level of commitment to the university.
“Giving to UCSB Athletics scholarships not only shows pride in UC Santa Barbara but directly impacts the individual in their most formative years,” said Kayla. “Bernie was and will always be a Gaucho through and through, and for that, I’m proud to be a Gaucho, too.”
“We are a part of the UCSB family,” said Cheryl. “Being a Gaucho is about each player putting in more than they take out, having the never-give-up spirit, and always giving back.”