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Donor Stories

SURF Donors are part of a small but mighty family who believe that investing in our young scholars is an important, and noble, cause. In honor of all of our donors, we share these stories.

Samuel N. Vodopia and Carol J. Hasson

Sam Vodopia, BS '54, Ricketts House, has been a long-time supporter of Caltech and the SURF program. Memories of his summer jobs while at Caltech sparked his interest in SURF. He once commented: "What better way for students to earn a stipend over the summer and have an opportunity to see firsthand what research is all about and the cooperative efforts involved." After Caltech, Sam worked at both Bell Labs and Hughes Aircraft. Carol attended Reed College and graduated in 1949 with a BS in Political Science. She is retired from the Hughes Aircraft Company, where she was a systems engineer and did real-time software programming.  Over the 50+ years that she and Sam have been together, she has come to love and support Caltech and our students.

Carl and Shirley Larson

Carl Larson is a Caltech alum, ME '52, and member of Ricketts House. He is a past Chairman of the SURF Board, and past president of The Associates. The Larsons established several endowments to support SURF students. When asked why they support the SURF program, Carl and Shirley responded:  “We believe that basic science and engineering are important and intrinsically good for humanity.  We choose to invest in Caltech because it does such a good job of doing research and in training future scientists and engineers. It is a place that we know, that we enjoy, and that we trust. In particular, we are supportive of the SURF program because it is an extraordinarily efficient and effective way for a young person to learn how to do research and to help determine if this is a career path that they wish to follow.”

Thomas and Mary Ann Hays

Thomas (BS ’57; MS ’58) and his wife, Mary Ann, established the Thomas C. Hays SURF endowment in 2000. Mr. Hays writes: "As a graduate of Caltech, I am grateful for the intellectual training the school provided, although my eventual career path, after an MBA from Harvard, was not in engineering or science. A distinctive advantage of Caltech is the small size of the student body and the opportunities for close involvement with the faculty. The SURF program is an ideal way for students to interact with the faculty and learn firsthand about doing research."

Dave and Karen Rossum

Dave and Karen Rossum are part of a family tradition in celebrating Caltech and the SURF program. Dave's father, Jack Rossum, received his BS in Chemical Engineering from Caltech in 1935 and was one of the first members of Blacker House; Dave (a Darb) got his BS in Biology in 1970. The Rossum family has a longstanding tradition of support for Caltech. Jack, Dave, and Karen have all been life members of the Caltech Associates, and Dave serves on the SURF Board of Directors. In 2000, they endowed the Rossum Family SURF Fellowship.

Dave got his first taste of true research at Caltech as a member of the ASCIT Summer Research Project, one of the predecessors to SURF. Although he made his career in engineering (designing music synthesizers and computer sound cards), he appreciates what a great opportunity a SURF can be for young scientists. Karen isn't a scientist, but she has always been impressed with Caltech students and faculty, particularly how much they enjoy sharing an understanding of their research at whatever level is appropriate for their audience.