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UC Davis Magazine

Volume 30 · Number 4 · Summer 2013

The Campaign for UC Davis: Saved by education


Sandi Redenbach ’72, Cred. ’73, center, and Ken Gelatt ’67, Cred. ’68, right, received the 2013 Charles
J. Soderquist Award for their philanthropic leadership. The award honors the late Soderquist, a local entrepreneur and alum. (Photo by Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Sandi Redenbach was 13 when she ran away to escape an abusive home and began living on the streets of Boston — an unlikely start for a philanthropist who is joining her husband in leaving two estate gifts to their alma mater.

But Redenbach ’72, Cred. ’73, says that her rough start in life is exactly why she gives: “I always said growing up, ‘If God led me to have more than I needed, I wanted to make sure I gave to others.’”

From Boston’s mean streets, Redenbach’s tumultuous path led her in and out of homes, high school, waitressing jobs, nightclub singing gigs and a marriage. It was her determination and education that saved her.

Creating hopeful futures

Kids grappling with asthma, pediatric leukemia patients battling cancer with radiation and chemotherapy, paralyzed children struggling to perform everyday tasks — these are just some of the young lives that innovative UC Davis researchers are working to help with the support of The Hartwell Foundation.

More . . .

“Even when I was a dropout, I knew someday and somehow I would go back to school, get my diploma and find a way to be somebody,” she said. “And I just really want that for every kid.”

Redenbach received her high school diploma at 26 and, from there, went to Solano Community College where she met a professor who changed her life.

“We were in class one day and Mr. Ralph Hansen said to me, ‘You know, Ms. Redenbach, you have the makings of a gifted teacher.’ I said to him — mind you, this is in front of the whole class — ‘Mr. Hansen, you’re nuts!’” Redenbach recalled with a laugh. “Just one sentence and he literally transformed my life.”

More about two types of planned gifts

A testamentary charitable gift is created upon death according to the terms of a person’s will or living trust. With a testamentary charitable gift, donors have the ability to make a significant contribution posthumously, while having the flexibility to use their assets during their lifetime.

A charitable remainder trust is an irrevocable trust that distributes a fixed percentage of the annual value of its assets on a regular basis to a non-charitable beneficiary; distributes the balance of the trust to a charitable organization of the donor’s choice after the donor’s death; and may present the donor with a charitable income tax deduction.

For more information, contact Brian Casey, executive director of planned giving, at 530-754-4105, or


After receiving her bachelor’s degree in English and teaching credential from UC Davis, Redenbach taught English, speech and theater arts in Woodland for 15 years, then founded the Woodland Joint Unified School District’s Independent Learning Center in 1988. Then one of only eight programs of its kind in the country, the Independent Learning Center is still in operation today serving at-risk youth. Redenbach also has written several articles and books on academic discipline, responsibility, emotional intelligence and leadership, and she provides staff development workshops on these topics throughout North America and other parts of the world.

Redenbach and her husband, Ken Gelatt ’67, Cred ’68, have been ardent supporters of the UC Davis School of Education for many years. They were the first alumni to make planned gifts to the school, establishing a charitable remainder trust to benefit teaching credential students and to provide flexible funding to be directed by the dean. Recently the couple made a testamentary charitable gift of $1.65 million to support, in perpetuity, the Sandi Redenbach Students-At-Promise endowment — a scholarship fund Redenbach created to support School of Education teaching credential and master’s degree students who are committed to improving education for those at risk of not succeeding in school.

“I think we all have a responsibility to give back,” said Gelatt, who was a coach and taught mathematics to junior high and high school students in Davis for nearly 40 years. “We want to use this gift as a way to let people know that it’s not hard to do. All of us can do more than we think, especially educators.”

The couple’s recent estate gift, in addition to supporting educators in the future, helped the university surpass its goal of raising $120 million for student support through The Campaign for UC Davis — the university’s first comprehensive fundraising effort.

“Whenever anyone makes a contribution, they hope they’ve been instrumental in making a difference,” said Redenbach, who, along with Gelatt, received the UC Davis Foundation’s 2013 Charlie Soderquist Award, which recognizes exceptional volunteer leadership and support of philanthropy at UC Davis. “We would have made our gift anyway, but it’s a really nice addition that our gift meant something big for the university.”