A Commitment to Education — And to USF

By Mary McInerney, Office of Development Communications Posted Mon, 10/13/2014 - 14:15

Pam Hamel chipped away at her education for years, taking college classes in Louisiana, Virginia and Florida, before moving with her husband and four children to San Francisco.

When her youngest son began kindergarten, she too went back to school — one class at a time, one evening a week. More than 20 years after she began her college career, Hamel earned her undergraduate degree in organizational behavior in 2000 from USF.

Hamel’s unwavering dedication to education didn’t end when she got her degree. Now a USF trustee, she and her husband, George, support the university in multiple ways, giving unrestricted funds so that the university has a flexible source of revenue. Over the years, the Hamels have supported student scholarships, completion of the Lo Schiavo Center for Science and Innovation, and funding for the Institute for Catholic Education Leadership and the Center for Asia Pacific Studies.

Unrestricted gifts provide USF with the flexibility to seize new opportunities, finance ongoing programs and support student services. It’s one more way donors like the Hamels express their support for USF as it changes the world for a new generation of students.

“It shows the leadership that we have faith in them,” she says. “The reason I give unrestricted gifts is because I don’t always know what an organization’s immediate funding priorities are.”

The Hamels, who run a family winery in Sonoma that was named the 2014 Best Upstart Winery by San Francisco magazine, also give to George’s alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. They believe unrestricted gifts have the most impact, not just for universities, but for students as well.

Pam Hamel says the couple is happy to be behind the scenes, providing financial support that is used to support students, attract top faculty, fund new buildings, and expand classroom programs. “I’m comfortable asking a school what their priorities are first,” she says. “It’s helpful for a school to have funds that are more free.”

In addition to education, Hamel has dedicated herself to the Night Ministry, a San Francisco organization that supports people who spend their nights on the street, including the homeless. Both she and her husband also give to causes involving music, since all four of their children are musicians.

Her children, meanwhile, have all graduated from college and are supporters of education, too.

“It was good for all of my kids to see me going to college,” she says. Even on days when she was exhausted, she would go to class, telling her kids, “Ninety-five percent of life is just showing up.”

That is also how Pam Hamel approaches her support of the university. She will always show up for USF, and she looks forward to hearing from the university’s leadership how she can make a difference and change the world for today’s students.

“We feel like the more we give, the more we get,” she says. “We feel like it’s an honor to give. We also like the mystery of it. Not always knowing. But if it helps one person to get an education, then it’s important.”

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