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Thunderdome

A Video Board to Spark Hoopla

Gift from Melissa and Mike Stewart ’91 heralds a golden era

Golden eras typically belong to the past, but not for UC Santa Barbara’s men’s basketball. Their golden era is having a serious comeback.

“We had a phenomenal team the years that I was there,” reflected Mike Stewart ’91. “It’s great when people rally around these things.”

Now with Head Coach Joe Pasternack in charge, Mike is once again wrapped in Gaucho fervor. He and his wife, Melissa, have decided to fund and name the Thunderdome’s video board, which will feature elements like pregame introductions and instant replays. The 54-foot display is expected to revolutionize the gametime atmosphere.

“This will really increase the fan experience,” said Coach Pasternack. “It’s going to benefit not just basketball and volleyball, but the student body that uses the Thunderdome for recreational sports and concerts.”

The rise of men’s basketball has a lot to do with Pasternack, whose first year was nothing short of remarkable. Pasternack led one of UCSB’s biggest athletic turnarounds, tying the school’s record for wins and equaling the NCAA’s largest increase in regular season victories from one season to the next.

A Video Board to Spark Hoopla Mike ’91 and Melissa Stewart herald the return of a golden era “I think [Coach Pasternack] works tirelessly,” said Mike. “He’s a great example for everybody. When there’s a leader that I think is worth backing, I’ll back him.”

That goes for Chancellor Yang, too, whom Mike deeply respects. “[I love] what the Chancellor has done for this university,” said Mike. “He really made the first difference for me.”

The resurgence of hoops caught Mike’s attention, but it certainly wasn’t the first time. His love of basketball dates back to his undergraduate years, when he played sports and studied English and business economics. As the young and inquiring sort, Mike took full advantage of what UC Santa Barbara had to offer. He wrote for the Daily Nexus, attended free film screenings and studied abroad in England.

“UCSB gave me a chance to bloom,” reflected Mike. “It was just a very expansive place for me.”

As managing director of Credit Suisse and its global markets head of equities, Mike chooses to also support UCSB economics. He cites his education as the training ground for life and business — where he learned to acclimate to different environments, figure it out and find good people.

“I had a great experience. I’d like to give back and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to,” said Mike. “I picked a couple areas on campus [to support] but fundamentally I want to see the entire school succeed.”

Giving back involves not only money, but also time for Mike and Melissa. Melissa serves on the board of the World Monuments Fund and Mike serves as a trustee for the UC Santa Barbara Foundation; he’s also an advisor to the economics department. Together, the couple resides in New York City and visit campus whenever possible.

“I personally get a lot out of it,” said Mike. “It’s interesting — the people that I get to interact with are incredibly accomplished. The energy of learning, of research, of youth is a great energy to be around.”

Indeed the golden era seems to be returning — not just for men’s basketball but for Mike, too. He’s become a fully engaged alumnus, cheering UC Santa Barbara’s leadership and the millennial Gauchos.

“We’re so grateful for the Stewart family and their generosity,” said Pasternack. “To build a successful basketball program, resources are huge in moving the program forward and they’ve been one of the ones who have helped.”