Graduate Division

Tom Angell's Legacy Lives on with Generous Donation

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Tom Angell's Legacy Lives on with Generous Donation

Legacy. It’s a word human beings talk and think about constantly. It’s a word that quite frankly is more than just a word, it defines who someone is. How does one leave a positive legacy though? How does one make sure they’re remembered far long after their gone? For former UCI counselor Tom Angell, it was actually quite simple.


“My dad had a lot of integrity, was honest, and treated everyone fairly,” says Tom’s daughter, Lisa Angell. “He could be trusted and put a lot of passion into what he did.”


Tom Angell passed away at the age of 73 in October of 2013. He died doing what he loved, training in the pool for an upcoming swim competition. Angell, was a national and international champion in short distance Masters Swimming. He also was a U.S. Air Force veteran and served as a mentor and counselor at UCI for over 25 years.


Lisa now hopes to keep her father’s legacy alive for years to come, as she’s pledged to donate her estate entirely to UCI as a planned gift in an effort to make sure the already established Tom Angell Fellowship continues to thrive and encourage mentorship


“My dad’s legacy is important to me, and I want it to continue,” Lisa says. “I can’t think of a better place for my assets to go.”


“We can’t thank Lisa enough for her gift,” adds Vice Provost of Graduate Education Gillian Hayes. “Her contribution will go a long way toward not only preserving her father’s legacy, but also keeping mentoring excellence as one of UCI’s top priorities for graduate education.”


Even seven years after his passing, Tom’s legacy lives on stronger than ever in the form of the Tom Angell Fellowship. The fellowship was formed in 2014 to honor graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty members who have demonstrated an excellence in mentoring.


“Mentorship was very important to my dad,” Lisa says. “He believed that helping others was one of the biggest ways a person could give back.”


Not only did Tom help people, he saved people’s lives. He started at UCI as a general counselor in the UCI health center, before transitioning to Graduate Division to serve as the first specific graduate counselor in the UC system. He specialized in helping graduate students balance the rigors of academia, while maintaining a healthy personal life.


“Tom was just excellent at everything, but you would never know it because he was just so humble,” says Graduate Division Assistant Dean Court Crowther. “I remember when he first came to Graduate Division, I’d see him in the office early every morning, only to find out he would train in the pool every day before work.”


“I would constantly see students walk into his office with tears streaming down their face, but then walk out with beaming smiles after meeting with him. The man was special. The world would be a much better place with more Tom Angells in it.


UCI believes that one can’t put a price on mentorship or wellness, so it was no surprise to see the Tom Angell Fellowship become a quick reality.


 "Tom was a beloved counselor who helped many graduate students overcome problems to successfully complete their degrees." former Vice Provost of Graduate Education Frances Leslie adds. "When he passed away his family and friends donated to a fellowship fund in his honor, to acknowledge students, postdocs and faculty who are wonderful mentors like him."


It’s one thing to provide inspiration for someone, but it’s priceless when one’s actions can actually lead to change. In the case current graduate students Katy Wimberly and Arianna Brown, this is exactly what happened. After both were named Tom Angell Fellowship recipients in 2019, the two created the PACE program.


PACE is the Physics and Astronomy Community Excellence program. It is a collection of peer mentorship programs that aim to normalize a holistic approach to success as a UCI physics student and to strengthen the student community.


“For me, hearing about Tom Angell and what did for the students of this university was just so inspiring,” says Katy. “It made me want to do something.”


Prior to creating PACE, Katy completed the Graduate Division’s Mentoring Excellence Program and served as a peer mentor in programs like Competitive Edge.


“I think both Katy and I realize that we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for our mentors, so it was pretty important for us try and give back in a sense,” Arianna says.


Arianna and Katy are just two examples of many students who have decided to take the baton from Tom Angell in an effort strengthen his legacy.


“I remember being at my dad’s memorial and many students came up to me telling me how much my dad meant to them,” recalls Lisa. “Honestly, I was honored and touched. I thought ‘wow, that’s my dad. I didn’t know any of these students, but he touched them all’. It was pretty incredible.”


As the new academic year gets ready to begin, UCI is set to celebrate the seven-year anniversary of the Tom Angell Fellowship, with his legacy only growing stronger by the year.


“I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure my dad’s memory lives on for years to come through this fellowship,” Lisa says.” He was a great person and I’m lucky to have called him my father.”


Click here for more information on the Tom Angell Fellowship.

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