For Todd and Lisa Halbrook, creating a philanthropic legacy is about more than financial generosity – it’s a way to give back to their alma mater and make a meaningful impact on the lives of students in their UC Irvine community.
That's why the Halbrooks recently committed $5 million in their estate to the Merage School's Center for Investment and Wealth Management, which for over a decade has provided innovative financial education programming to help empower more than 50,000 students to achieve financial success, both personally and professionally.
With the support of the Halbrooks, more students will have the opportunity to join and eventually influence a growing industry.
"Considering the financial services sector is a key driver of economic development in the region, this donation will allow us to help shape the dialogue in this important industry," said Dean Ian O. Williamson. "Many bright and capable students do not have the financial means to earn a degree, and this gift from the Halbrooks will help remove that barrier."
The Center's mission to provide financial education to people from all socioeconomic backgrounds underlies each of its initiatives. This includes the Pacific Life LIFEvest program, which offers immersive financial literacy workshops for high school students from underserved communities aspiring to become first-generation college graduates.
Faculty Director for the Center, Christopher Schwarz, views the Halbrooks’ investment as significant to advancing the Center’s impact on future students.
"This gift from Todd and Lisa Halbrook speaks to their incredible generosity and belief in the Center's mission of financial education for all," Schwarz said. "With their contribution, the Center will be able to expand its reach both at UCI and in the community. UCI is so fortunate to have both Todd and Lisa as alumni, and we look forward to their continued involvement."
For Todd, the Center's mission hits close to home because he experienced firsthand the stress of working multiple jobs while earning his undergraduate degree. "I had to pay my way through undergrad and graduate school, and it was impossible to dedicate all the time I wanted to my education."
Even with the heavy workload, Todd earned his Fully Employed MBA from the Merage School in 2005. Lisa earned her undergraduate degree in 2008 and a Fully Employed MBA in 2014, both from UCI.
Currently, Todd works as a Managing Director and Financial Advisor for RBC Wealth Management – U.S. while Lisa champions their family through the success and wellbeing of their 6-year-old son, Alex, and by upholding their philanthropic priorities.
The couple has maintained a close connection to UCI as members of the Dean's Advisory Board and through their ongoing commitment to supporting students, which includes establishing an endowed scholarship at the Merage School in 2019.
Both feel their Merage School experiences have been beneficial to their careers and fostered lasting relationships with other alumni, many of whom have taken an active role in shaping the industry.
"There are a lot of people I went through the FEMBA program with who I am still friends with," Todd said.
Lisa similarly referenced not only the strength of her Merage School relationships but the breadth of the greater UCI community.
"Everyone in Orange County has a UCI story," she said. "They either go to UCI or know someone who went to UCI, so it's a great way to network and build relationships."
As alumni, the Halbrooks are now providing the next generation of students with the opportunity to write their own UCI stories. They intend for their donation to support students who are struggling financially, because access to a higher education serves as the launchpad for a life-changing career path.
"These kids are the future," Lisa said. "This is our way to pay it forward."