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Student in Lab

Elemental Education’ Inspires Extraordinary Giving

Spotlight on Dr. Bruce ’71 and Susan ’70 Worster

If you trace the history of gold, you’ll discover it was revered by many cultures across almost every continent. Its cosmic origins are still a mystery but the symbolism of gold endures: it is the emblem of the extraordinary. It’s no wonder, then, that Dr. Bruce ’71 and Susan ’70 Worster are among UC Santa Barbara’s Gold Circle Society members – their generosity and hard-working ethos render them as rare as this precious metal.

Together, the Worsters’ investments have broadly impacted the university. In 2000, they established The Worster Endowed Chair in Experimental Physics and in 2004, they endowed the Susan and Bruce Worster Dean of Science Chair. They also support women in engineering and the sciences; students studying physics and ecology, evolution and marine biology (EEMB); and Arts & Lectures. Science, in particular, holds a special place in Susan’s heart:

“I went with what I loved,” says Susan, who majored in environmental biology. “[Back then], I washed a lot of test tubes,” she laughs.

Bruce shares a love of science with his wife, and says the couple’s interests have broadened over time. They enjoy flying airplanes, spending time with family, collecting photography, and working on their new home in Santa Barbara. This complements the Worsters’ increased engagement with UCSB, which has expanded into substantial leadership roles: Susan is a UCSB Foundation Trustee and the couple serves on the Dean of Science Cabinet.

“What impresses me most about [the Worsters],” says Dean of Science Pierre Wiltzius, “is their enthusiasm and dedication to UC Santa Barbara as a thriving community of scholars. More than just trusted advisors, they are gracious and generous hosts whose unwavering commitment to science education has truly made an indelible impact on this campus.”

That impact is a big one, as Wiltzius can attest. He is holder of the Susan and Bruce Worster Dean of Science chair, supplied with annual unrestricted funds from the Worsters. This allows him to address the areas of greatest need within the division of sciences. Indeed, the Worsters' generosity is made visible by their volunteerism and contributions. “The give-back mentality is very enriching for us,” reflects Susan.

“It’s an obligation in our minds to give back,” adds Bruce. “We both point to our successes at UCSB. Our education is elemental to us.”

“Elemental” is one way to describe the Worsters’ education. Bruce holds a BS from Harvey Mudd College, an MBA from Santa Clara University and a physics doctorate from UCSB. Susan graduated with a bachelor of science degree from UCSB, then went on to pursue her master’s degree in business administration – something she accomplished while raising their children and taking night courses.

Brian and Sara, the Worster children, also share a love of learning with their parents. They graduated from Occidental College and Wellesley College, respectively. Indeed, the Worsters have transformed higher education into a veritable pastime – and its value cannot be overlooked.

“In my generation, high school counselors advised [women] to become either a nurse, a secretary or a school teacher,” says Susan. This confounded her sense of opportunity, especially having grown up with five younger brothers. After all, “if they could do it, [she] could do it!”

Susan’s academic ascent saw fewer women at the top, and this deeply impacted her sense of equality. She witnessed the struggle women had to endure. Consequently the Worsters feel passionately about supporting women in the sciences. “It’s nice to see women encourage other women,” says Susan.

Not surprisingly, the Worsters keep themselves busy in Santa Barbara. Their intelligence and kindness make them a delightful pair, and they remain at the forefront of UCSB leadership. Never ones to laze about, the Worsters exemplify all that is gold.