Patty Bonnstetter: Making a Difference Through Scholarship Support for 20 Years

Updated: May 25

Patty Bonnstetter '73 started a Cal men’s basketball scholarship in 2002 and has been a devoted supporter of each of the 12 student-athletes who have held the Patty & Gene Bonnstetter Basketball Scholarship. The endowed scholarship is in memory of Patty’s late husband, Gene, an attorney (and would-be point guard) who died playing the sport he loved at a Sacramento athletics club.


Gene was a big fan of Brian Wethers (1999-03), a guard/forward for the Golden Bears, so Wethers earned the Bonnstetter scholarship the first year. Since then, Cal has fulfilled Patty’s wishes for the Bears' starting point guard to receive the scholarship. Joel Brown was the 2020-21 recipient, and next school year will mark the 20th year of the Bonnstetter scholarship. Patty shares with us her love for Cal and why she enjoys giving back to her alma mater through scholarship support.

If you are interested in making a gift to support Cal student-athlete scholarships, please email calathleticsfund@berkeley.edu.

My dad went to Cal, I went to Cal, and one of my three sisters went to Cal. When I graduated from Cal, I found that one of the best ways to stay connected was through football. I bought season tickets. I married an Iowan, who went to Mankato State in Minnesota. Upon graduation, he went into the Army, and afterward he attended law school in Sacramento. He stayed in California and spent his career at Caltrans. The movie "Field of Dreams" was about Gene and me. He was the Iowa boy, and I was the Berkeley girl.


Gene unexpectedly died playing basketball at his athletic club from ventricular fibrillation, a cardiac event. That was before AEDs were common. Now, they're ubiquitous. Dr. Cindy Chang [former Cal Athletics head team physician] invited me to be on her committee to get AEDs at Cal...it worked! Since Gene and I didn’t have children, I wanted to do something to honor his memory, but I wasn't sure what. Then it came to me: his sport, my school. Scholarship is very important to me. Gene was a huge Brian Wethers fan. I asked Cal to give the scholarship to Brian the first year and thereafter to the starting point guard. For many years, I made an annual gift of $20,000 to the scholarship fund. We finally got to the point where it was partially, but permanently, endowed.


Each year, the athletic department tells me who has the award. I try to meet the player early in the season. I sit under the north basket at Haas Pavilion, so I usually get to see them on their way out of the gym. I’ve gotten to know all of them. The media guide provides their birthdays, so I send them an electronic birthday greeting saying “Happy Birthday Bonn Scholly.” I got to know Sam Singer’s mother because she moved to California for his senior year, and she sometimes sat with me. I recently had lunch with guard Paris Austin, who graduated in 2020. They are my "kids," and I now have a dozen!

I want the student-athletes to know that people support their scholarships. One of the reasons I do this is because I would like other people to consider endowing a position. Coaches come and go, but I am always going to have my kid for the year that he has the scholarship. They have been staying in touch.


I said to Beth [Tafolla-Voetsch] in the Cal Athletics Fund that we should talk about doing a reunion every year. Not everyone will be able to come every year, but I can connect with my scholarship recipients at a different game since I have season tickets. It’s a nice way to connect with some younger people, and I would hope that when they get in a position where they can help somebody go to college, they will do that.


Patty and Gene Bonnstetter Basketball Scholarship Recipients

2002-03 Brian Wethers

2003-04 Richard Midgley

2004-05 Richard Midgley

2005-06 Richard Midgley

2006-07 Nikola Knezevich

2007-08 Nikola Knezevich

2008-09 Jerome Randle

2009-10 Jerome Randle

2010-11 Brandon Smith

2011-12 Brandon Smith

2012-13 Justin Cobbs

2013-14 Justin Cobbs

2014-15 Sam Singer

2015-16 Tyrone Wallace

2016-17 Sam Singer

2017-18 Darius McNeill

2018-19 Paris Austin

2019-20 Paris Austin

2020-21 Joel Brown