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UC Davis Magazine

Volume 26 · Number 2 · Winter 2009


All in the Family


Whether by accident or design, some families make UC Davis a family affair. For some, attending every Picnic Day since they were little makes attending UC Davis inevitable. Others enjoy carrying on a longtime tradition. And almost everybody likes having something else in common with their spouses, siblings and parents.

But for some, UC Davis really runs in the family. Meet a few of these extended Aggie families.

The Finley/Ryen Family photo

Top Row, from left: Emma ’05 and Joel ’06 Finley. Front Row, from left: Doug ’76 and Sally ’76 Ryen, and Sue Ann ’78 and Curt ’76 Finley. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

Finley and Ryen Family

Emma Finley ’05, assistant marketing editor, UC Davis Extension
Joel Finley ’06, husband, scheduling analyst, UC Davis Registrar’s Office
Doug Ryen ’76, father, assistant director of facilities, UC Davis Student Housing
Sally Bennet Ryen ’76, mother, executive assistant, UC Davis Chancellor’s Office
Curt Finley ’76, M.S. ’78, M.S. ’79, father-in-law, programmer/information technologist, UC Davis Department of Animal Science
Sue Ann Finley ’78, mother-in-law, nurse, Cowell Student Health Center

Growing up as the daughter of UC Davis alumni Doug Ryen and Sally Bennet Ryen in the town of Davis, Emma Finley was bound to feel Aggie pride. “It’s hard not to fall in love with UC Davis when you’re part of the town that orbits around the school,” she said. “Growing up here, you sort of start to worship the Aggies.”

Her husband, Joel, grew up in Davis as well, and the two attended football games, theatre productions, summer camps and Picnic Day. “I couldn’t imagine being anything but an Aggie,” Emma said.

In fact, UC Davis sparked an early romance for the couple; many of their first “dates” took place during middle school at UC Davis men’s and women’s basketball games, while their parents sat a few rows away.

Emma pursued English as a major as her parents had done, and some faculty members recognized the name. Instructor Jack Hicks returned Emma’s first essay with an ominous note requesting that she come to his office. “I was terrified I’d done something wrong,” she said. “But it turned out he just wanted to know how my parents were doing and tell me what they were like as students.”

Currently, all six of the family members work at UC Davis. “I think it shows how much we believe in and appreciate UC Davis and the community,” Joel said.

Joel and Emma plan to continue the Davis tradition. “No kids yet,” Emma said, “but I’m sure as soon as they’re born, we’ll bundle them off to watch the Picnic Day dachshund races.”

The Hackett Family photo

Robin Madsen ’79, Natalie Madsen, Ida Hackett ’53, Greg Madsen ’79, Wesley Hackett ’53 and Andrew Madsen

The Hackett Family

Wesley Hackett ’53, Cred. ’56, M.S. ’59, Ph.D. ’62, associate in UC Davis agricultural experiment station
Ida Hackett, attended in 1953, Wesley’s wife
Norbert Hackett ’55, Wesley’s brother
Cynthia (Livers) Hackett, Norbert’s wife
David Hackett, M.B.A. ’93, Wesley’s son
Donna Hackett, M.B.A. ’93, David’s wife
Robin Madsen ’79, Wesley’s daughter
Gregory Madsen ’79, Robin’s husband

Wesley Hackett began his academic career as a student at UC Davis back in 1948 when his fellow classmates didn’t dare walk on the grass, freshmen and sophomores had to wear “dink” caps and they always greeted each other with “Hello, Aggie.” His studies at UC Davis led him to four degrees, including a Ph.D. in plant physiology. Decades later, traditions have changed, but Wesley is still at UC Davis — this time as a researcher.

Though he has taught at UCLA and the University of Minnesota, he always found his way back to Davis. He was a faculty member when his daughter, Robin Madsen, attended UC Davis as an undergraduate during the late ’70s. “Sometimes she would sit in on my classes to make sure I was earning my money,” Wesley said.

“I ended up at Davis because of my Dad,” Robin said. She started her undergraduate work at UC Berkeley but transferred to UC Davis. She said she didn’t choose Davis — “it chose me.” Studying where her father taught didn’t affect her college experience, but he did make her feel more secure, she said.

Wesley, Robin and David, Wesley’s son who received an M.B.A. in ’93, all live in Davis. Robin married fellow Aggie Greg Madsen ’79, whom she met in an international economics class her senior year, and David married Donna Hackett, M.B.A. ’93, and they have two sons, Tai, 5, and Corey, 2.

Montemayor Family photo

Top row, from left: JP Montemayor ’84, Mark Androvich ’91, Mark Montemayor ’93 and Chris Montemayor, 1980s.
Bottom row, from left: Angel Roces ’98, Aggie Roces ’02, Theresa Montemayor ’79 and David Okita ’78. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

The Montemayor Family

Theresa Montemayor ’79, associate director for Campus Unions programs and marketing at UC Davis
David Okita ’78, Theresa’s husband
Aggie Roces ’02, Theresa’s sister
Angel Roces ’98, Aggie’s husband
JP Montemayor ’84, Theresa’s brother
Mark Montemayor ’93, Theresa’s brother
Judy Fukushima ’81, Theresa’s cousin
Craig Fukushima ’80, Judy’s husband
Genie Montemayor ’91, Theresa’s cousin
Gigi Montemayor ’91,Theresa’s cousin
Mark Androvich ’91, Gigi’s husband
Jason Montemayor ’93, Theresa’s cousin
Chris Montemayor, 1980s, Theresa’s cousin

As the daughter of immigrants from the Philippines living in Sacramento during the 1970s, Theresa Montemayor was encouraged to attend a university that was close to home yet was known for providing a good education. However, Theresa and the other members of her family who attended UC Davis got much more than a local degree.

The most important part of the experience for her was finding a spot where she fit in. She and other family members, like her husband, David Okita, and her cousin Judy Fukushima, were students at UC Davis during the early days of the ethnic studies departments. “It was a nice place for us to connect with each other and feel like you’re not alone. It gave me a sense of place.”

When her cousin Jason Montemayor attended UC Davis about 20 years after Theresa, he went for many of the same reasons: It is close to his family, and “the level of education is incomparable,” he said.

As the youngest family member to graduate from UC Davis, he had long heard about UC Davis before he enrolled. “It was interesting to hear stories from years before I got there,” he said, “to see what things are new and what things are truly UC Davis traditions, like Picnic Day and the Whole Earth Festival.”

“My family has a lot of pride in the fact that we graduated from UC Davis,” Theresa said. In her entire family, there are 13 UC Davis alumni, and her family might see another member attend in the future. Judy’s 11-year-old son already talks about going to UC Davis.

Thomson Family photo

Karen ‘96, Mary Lou and Jack ’46 Thomson

The Thomson Family

Jack Thomson ’46, retired partner, Jerry Slough Farming Co., and co-founder, Thomson International Inc. in Bakersfield
Jeff Thomson ’69, Jack’s son
Elaine Thomson ’70, Jeff’s wife
Annie Thomson ’02, Jeff’s daughter
Karen Thomson ’96, Jeff’s daughter
Nancy Thomson ’05, Jeff’s daughter
Tim Thomson ’75, Jack’s son
Janet Thomson ’75, Tim’s wife
Kristin Thomson ’04, Tim’s daughter
Wendy Thomson-Hoss ’76, J.D. ’81, Jack’s daughter
Fred Frick, Jack’s brother-in-law
Dennis Frick ’72, Fred’s son

When Jack Thomson first attended UC Davis in 1942, his academic career was interrupted by World War II, but after he served as a Navy aviation cadet, he came back to earn degree in animal science. Growing up on a farm in Bakersfield, he knew he wanted to go into agriculture and livestock. “I got a real good background there,” Jack said. “Davis made me in better shape to move with the times and to stay in business.”

Jack’s family continued the farming tradition. His sons, who studied agricultural economics and business in the 1960s and ’70s, learned similar lessons at UC Davis. Jeff, the eldest son, said he learned that “Things change over time,” in the farming business. “The theory I got from Davis can be used my whole life.”

Jeff, who married fellow Aggie Elaine, started Thomson International Inc. based in Bakersfield. Jack’s other son, Tim, and his wife, Janet, are currently partners of the Jerry Slough Farming Co., which produces organic lettuce seeds and tomatoes.

Jack’s daughter, Wendy Hoss, who studied law at Davis, felt a family presence when she attended the university in the 1970s. She said “Davis felt like it was home,” after years of hearing stories about her parents living in Davis and seeing her uncle’s name, Fred Frick, on the track-and-field record board.

The latest Thomson alumni are Karen, Annie, Kristin and Nancy Thomson, Jack’s granddaughters. Annie majored in sociology and Karen in textiles and clothing, degrees that weren’t even offered when Jack graduated from UC Davis.

Wilson Family photo

Isaac ’01 (from left), Noel ’03, Barbara ’73 and Darrell ’73 Wilson.

The Wilson Family

George Wilson ’14
Tim Wilson, attended 1946–47, George’s son
Darrell Wilson ’73, George’s grandson
Barbara (Haussmann) Wilson ’73, Darrell’s wife
Isaac Wilson ’01, Darrell’s son
Noel Wilson ’03, Darrell’s daughter
Chiles Wilson ’76, George’s son
Daniel Wilson ’77, George’s son
Mary Coelho ’77, Cred. ’78, Daniel’s wife
Patrick Wilson ’03, Daniel’s son

The Wilson family’s history has been intertwined with that of the campus since its earliest years. George Wilson was a student during the 1910s when UC Davis was still just the farm school for UC Berkeley, and he later married Carol Chiles, a member of the Chiles family, which helped create and develop the town of Davis.

Their son, Tim, went to UC Davis for three semesters during 1946 and 1947 before he went into farming. He grew up here and remembers how his family would participate in campus activates when he was young. “I remember clouds of dust from the horses when they had a rodeo on the Quad,” he said. He also watched his grandfather drive his tractor in the Picnic Day parades.

Tim had three sons, all of whom graduated from UC Davis during the ’70s. Tim’s son, Darrell, and his wife-to-be, Barbara, met at UC Davis during an important time in its evolution — they were living in Malcolm Hall, the first co-ed dormitory at UC Davis. “My parents ended up meeting the first night there,” Noel said, who is the great-granddaughter of George and the latest Aggie alum.

Noel, who said her first choice was always UC Davis, felt more pressure than the average student to get accepted into UC Davis because of her family’s history. “My parents would always say, ‘You know, your great-grandfather went there and your uncles and your brother.’”

Her brother, Isaac, who was finishing college when Noel started, helped her get situated in the town and school. “It was kind of a win-win situation,” Noel said. She fed him meals from her dorm’s dinning commons, and he helped her register and gave her advice for courses — like not to enroll in 8 a.m. classes.

When Isaac was a student at UC Davis, he followed in his grandfather’s footsteps by becoming a pilot. “My grandpa co-founded the flying club around 1946,” he said. “He showed us his club card with ‘Member No. 1’ on it.”

Elizabeth Stitt is editorial assistant for UC Davis Magazine.