Jeff Kent Talks Women Driven Scholarship

Jeff Kent sat down and talked with BearTerritory about his Women Driven program back in March, and on Monday, the University of California finally unveiled the full endowment.

Back in March, Jeff Kent -- former San Francisco Giant and California baseball alumnus – spoke with BearTerritory at the Giants’ Scottsdale, Ariz., spring training facility about his hope for fully endowing his pet program – the Women Driven Scholarship – and on Monday, the university announced that the endowment had become a reality.

“I started that program my first year, when I came back to San Francisco, back in ’97, maybe. In ’98, we finally established that program,” Kent said. “For me, it’s providing scholarship funds for female walk-on athletes in programs that range from five or six different athletic sports.”

Kent’s desire to support female athletes was prompted by the birth of his first child, daughter Lauren, along with his own memories of how tough it was to make ends meet while at Cal. Kent entered Cal as a walk-on athlete with a partial scholarship before receiving a full scholarship in his final year. Kent opened up to BearTerritory about how he picked that as his cause du-jour.

“My first daughter being born,” Kent said. “She was about five or six years old when I was in San Francisco and I started playing there in ’97. Most of the funds that athletes contribute back to their programs go to the same program that they played in. For me, it was trying to come up with something different, something unique and inspired by my little girls. I figured baseball – and I had provided some funds for baseball – but I was trying to go outside the box, rather than just being the norm.”

That’s not to say that Kent didn’t help out his program during the cancellation-reinstatement drama of 2011.

“When they cut the program, there was disappointment in my mind, because of the politics that I assume were involved in eliminating baseball,” Kent said. “It was disturbing to know that the program goes from not knowing that they’re in trouble to being eliminated. I was kind of disappointed in the way it got out. Then, once I found out through [former pitching coach and current Miami Marlins scout] John Hughes – Cheese – about what was going on, I talked to [former head coach] Bob Milano, I talked to a few other alumni about the process that they were going to try and take to reinstate the program an the funding that needed to happen. I was not eager to get involved, but knowing that I came from that program, I knew that I needed to get involved in some way.”

Kent didn’t disclose how much he donated to the program, but it was, according to a source, “significant.” Kent called it a “meaningful amount of money.”

His Women Driven program, now officially christened The Jeff Kent Women Driven Scholarship Endowment, was created with a $531,000 donation by Kent, augmented by $100,000 in matching funds.

“We started it in ’97, and it was a matching program where every RBI I would hit, I would donate money – and I can’t remember what the number was – but from there, we got people to donate matches to that,” Kent said. “People wanted to donate $5 an RBI or two bucks an RBI or whatever it was. I established a matching program, and hell, I think since ’97, we’ve probably come close to three quarters of a million dollars in scholarship money.”

When BearTerritory spoke with Kent, he said he was “almost at home plate,” with establishing the endowment, which came to fruition on Monday.

“That is because of a commitment that I made to the people who matched funds, whether they were alumni or just fans of mine or fans of the Giants,” Kent said. “I made a commitment to those people that that would be a program I’d forever think about and try to establish as an endowed program. I was overwhelmed with the matching funds that we’ve gotten for the program.”

Kent said that the fund would produce one scholarship per year, designated for one female athlete in soccer, softball, tennis, track or cross country at the University. The criteria for the scholarship include a preference for non-recruited student-athletes with a minimum 2.8 GPA, an interest in community service or mentoring, and demonstrated financial need.

Kent will return to the Bay Area to be recognized for his generosity and commitment to Cal during the Golden Bears’ football game against Colorado at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, September 27.

“It’s not every day you get a phone call from a former Golden Bear and professional athlete who says he wants to endow an athletic scholarship, let alone for a male athlete to be such an outspoken champion of women’s athletics,” said H. Michael Williams, Interim Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. “Jeff came to us with this idea. Supporting 30 sports programs at Cal is a challenge and he is making a significant difference for female student-athletes in five of those programs, differences that will have an impact throughout the rest of their lives.”

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