By: Kaleigh Anderson
Berkeley native Paul Violich, along with daughters Julia '88 and Mackellar '13, have recently endowed The Paul Violich Family Scholarships for Women’s Lacrosse in the hopes of promoting equality and equity in the changing landscape of women’s collegiate athletics.
The roots of the Violich family are tied around the Golden State and centered in the heart of Berkeley, California. Paul Violich describes his family as “California Centric,” dating back to a lineage of ancestors coming to California in 1849 in search of gold.
Paul’s connection with the University began far beyond his time as a philanthropist, with both of his parents graduating from Cal as members of the class of '25 and '26 respectively. Growing up in Berkeley mere minutes from campus, Paul began selling programs outside of California Memorial Stadium in 1947 while watching Golden Bear greats like Jackie Jenson and Johnny Olszewski during the Pappy Waldorf Era. It was here that he developed his enthusiasm for Cal Athletics.
“The team used to take the bus up from Harmon Gym to the stadium. All the kids would gather around the bus and the players would put their arms around us and take us into the game. On one occasion, Jackie Jenson put his arm around me and took me into the game …and you couldn’t touch my shoulder for two weeks after that.” Violich described.
Although illicitly training at Harmon Gym while in high school Paul was recruited to swim and play water polo at Stanford, where he majored in history and economics. During his senior year he made the decision to join the Navy ultimately becoming a Navy Seal. Paul later returned to Stanford to obtain his MBA before embarking on a career in finance and agriculture.
“When I worked in New York, I was the first person in my family to live outside of California in over a hundred years,” said Violich. After a stint on Wall Street, Paul moved back to the Bay Area where he currently resides, first engaged in investment management and currently working as the president of Violich Farms, Inc., one of the largest producers of Almonds and Walnuts in California. In the meantime, he has continued to honor the Cal Stanford rivalry by attending 67 Big Games since 1946.
Fate would continue to link Paul to Berkeley, as daughters Julia and Mackellar continued the family’s legacy by competing as student-athletes. Julia was a member of the women’s soccer program, while Mackellar found a home within the women’s lacrosse team.
Seeing athletics through the lens of a Cal parent, Paul knew he wanted to create a legacy of equity and accountability for women’s sports. He began this endeavor by endowing both the head women’s swim coach and the head women’s lacrosse coach positions at his alma mater, Stanford.
“The disciplines required of student-athletes provide foundation for future leadership and grounding in good citizenship. In my case, athletics reduced the amount of time I could get in trouble. Supporting women’s sports gives young women opportunities that were not available in our generation. When I was a student-athlete at Stanford we didn’t have any NCAA women’s sports.” said Paul.
Fast forward and the spirit of philanthropy has developed in daughters Julia and Mackellar, who joined forces to generate opportunities for female student-athletes at Cal. As former Golden Bears it was important for them to give back to the programs they held near and dear to their hearts. Currently the Cal women’s soccer program has the full allotment of scholarships, which left the Violich’s to focus their attention on Cal women’s lacrosse and the programs need for scholarship support.
“At the professional level women do not have the opportunities that men do. By providing a level of equity at the collegiate level it allows for female student-athletes to take advantage of the same playing field that male student-athletes have and have had historically. To be able to affect what happens at the collegiate level is very important, it helps women build a lot of self-confidence and learn to take initiative” Julia stated.
Julia, a 1989 graduate of the College of Letters and Science, went on to obtain her MBA from the Haas School of Business as well as her MPH from the School of Public Health. Julia remembers her time at Cal fondly, whether it was on the pitch with her teammates or founding the sustainable food initiative during her time at Haas.
Mackellar, a 2013 graduate of the Rausser College of Natural Resources, is currently working towards her MBA at the Haas School of Business. She recalls her time as a Golden Bear student-athlete as a “life-changing” experience, and believes it is imperative to give back to help the next generation.
“When I played at Cal there were only three women’s lacrosse scholarships” Mackellar stated. “We now have 7 out of 12. I think having these scholarships will help to rebound the program and make a really big impact on women’s lacrosse not only at Cal but on the entire west coast.”
The Paul Violich Family Scholarships for Women’s Lacrosse were officially endowed in December of 2021, and were inspired by two matching scholarship gifts from the Rogers Family Foundation and an anonymous donor.
“Scholarships are the foundation of support we can provide to student-athletes”, said Head Women’s Lacrosse Coach Brooke Eubanks. “They are also the first signs of commitment and belief in a potential student-athlete from a coach and its athletic department. Over the course of the past 8 years our program has increased its scholarships over 100%. We remain focused on the 5 remaining scholarships needed to give us the competitive advantage. The Violich family has been an instrumental part of our scholarship increases, having a huge impact on our current team and future recruits. Words cannot describe the gratitude our program has for the Violich family.”
The family hopes that in creating these scholarships they will inspire others to give back and help Cal women’s lacrosse reach the program’s maximum scholarship limit.
“The Violich family has made a monumental impact on our women’s lacrosse program and the lives of our student-athletes,” said Director of Athletics Jim Knowlton. “I could not be more grateful of their support and appreciative of their commitment to our young women and our program.”
Each year, Cal Athletics funds more than $16 million in scholarships to support our student-athletes. Each investment of $500,000 or $1M towards a Cal team below the NCAA maximum for its sport will establish a new partially or fully endowed scholarship. This is an exclusive opportunity through 2023 during the “Light the Way” campus-wide campaign to build a stronger Berkeley.
To learn more about endowed scholarships please contact the Cal Athletics Fund at CalAthleticsFund@berkeley.edu or (510) 642-2427.