The three-story atrium in the Tanimura & Antle Family Memorial Library at California State University, Monterey Bay has been named in honor of philanthropists Linda and Michael Dorn and their support of the Pay It Forward scholarship and mentoring program.
Three-dimensional silver letters on a balcony wall above the atrium walkway, which designate the space as the “Linda and Michael Dorn Pay It Forward Atrium,” were unveiled by President Dianne Harrison in a ceremony on Monday afternoon, Aug. 15.
Pay It Forward provides $5,000 a year for four years and guidance from a mentor to selected incoming students from Monterey County high schools, who in turn are asked to “pay it forward” by mentoring youngsters at the Boys & Girls Club of Monterey County and The First Tee of Monterey County. The program now has 40 students and 40 mentors, with a goal of doubling that in the next two years.
The atrium naming is recognition of the Dorns’ generosity and leadership in helping to develop Pay It Forward and Executives-in-Residence, an umbrella program that engages community leaders in addressing social issues, said President Dianne Harrison.
“Mike and Linda have a philosophy of giving,” Harrison told an audience of friends and supporters in the library atrium. “They both believe it is essential to invest in the communities where they live, whether full-time or part-time.
“They have a history of doing that, and they continue to do that in Monterey County.”
The Dorns, who have a home in Pebble Beach, have been successful home builders in the Green Valley area south of Tucson, Arizona, where they also have been leading supporters of an organization to help older adults continue living in their own homes.
Jim Bracher, a longtime leadership consultant who established Executives-in-Residence and Pay It Forward at CSU Monterey Bay, said the Dorns were instrumental in the establishment and success of both efforts.
Their work will continue to pay dividends long into the future, Bracher said.
“You are strengthening this community with every ‘pay it forward’ action that emerges because of your inspiring vision of what can be done to make lives better,” he said.
The Dorns stepped forward to fund the first Pay It Forward scholarships, and Linda Dorn suggested the name, inspired by a 2000 film that portrays the compounding power of generosity.
Speaking at Monday’s naming ceremony, Mike Dorn became emotional as he described a brush with death from polio as a 15-year-old during the polio epidemic of 1955. Two other men with polio were in the hospital room with him, he said, and both died within a short period.
“I said, ‘God, please help me,’” Dorn recalled. “I made a lot of promises, and He gave me the greatest gift He could give me, and that’s life. That’s why we have been so much involved with things like this.”
He pledged that he and his wife would continue their support of Pay It Forward, and he called on others to do likewise, laying out a goal for the program to eventually serve as many as 1,000 students.
Dorn said Pay It Forward’s combination of scholarships with mentoring sets it apart from other programs designed to help less advantaged students.
“You combine the cash with the mentoring, and you’ve got success,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Pay It Forward students who spoke at Monday’s event underscored that point, describing what the program has meant to them.
Ashley Rojas, a junior majoring in Collaborative Health and Human Services, said her mentor, Dr. Suzi Brauner-Tatum, a social worker at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, had helped her see that she has “no limits in life.”
“Suzi has made such a positive impact in my life here at CSUMB that I wouldn’t be the same without her,” Rojas said.
Pay It Forward recipient Sean Capistrano, who graduated cum laude in May with a bachelor’s degree in business, also credited his mentor, Jack Davis, and thanked the Dorns for being “pioneers” of Pay It Forward.
“Pay It Forward undoubtedly sculpted me into a better person overall,” Capistrano said, “as I am more driven to be part of the change to better my community, not only for me but for my family … .”
Capistrano, who is employed by the Hayashi & Wayland accounting firm in Salinas and is preparing to take the CPA exam, made good on his words by contributing a check to Pay It Forward as he concluded his remarks.
“Nothing would have gotten in the way of my climb toward graduation,” Capistrano said, “but without Pay It Forward, the ladder would have been drastically different.”
To learn more about Executives-in-Residence, click here.
To learn more about Pay It Forward, click here.
Photo by Randy Tunnell
Left to right: Michael and Linda Dorn, CSUMB President Dianne Harrison and Jim Bracher of the Executives-in-Residence program at the unveiling ceremony on Aug. 15.