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Ashley Gayles and Phyllis Epstein-Friedman

She went to an inner-city Sacramento high school whose graduates didn’t typically go on to Cal. In addition, personal challenges — including growing up in a single-parent family dependent on welfare, and the death of her father before she was born — didn’t put her on the fast track to academic success

Scholarship Recipient: Ashley Gayles ’10

Still, her mother always impressed upon her the importance of school, so Gayles worked hard, earned good grades, and, when the time came, mailed an application anyway. Her response when she received the letter welcoming her as a member of the 2006 freshman class? “I was so shocked when I found out I was accepted by Berkeley. It really boosted my confidence that a school like this wanted me.”

The first in her family to go to college, Gayles earned her B.A. in Political Science in 2010. She gives much of the credit for her positive experience at Berkeley to her California Alumni Association Achievement Award Scholarship, which recognized her academic distinction in the face of major life obstacles. Thanks to her scholarship — which was made possible by generous planned gifts from Phyllis Epstein Friedman — Gayles received four years of tuition and fees, as well as an invaluable support system to help with academic and career issues. Having her scholarship freed her from money worries and allowed her to concentrate on her studies and prepare for a career. It also allowed her to tutor middle school and high school students who are confronting some of the same challenges she faced. “I really like working with underprivileged students to help them get an education,” she explains, “because I’ve seen what’s possible.”

Scholarship Donor: Phyllis Epstein-Friedman

A Bay Area native and a motivated student, the late Phyllis Friedman attended UC Berkeley as a member of the Class of 1940 for two years. “I thought it was wonderful,” she says of her Cal experience. Her strong interest was journalism, but, discovering limited opportunities for women journalists in those days, she left college to join her parents in their Oakland-based insurance brokerage, the Chas. Epstein Company. Friedman helped run the highly successful firm for two decades until the family closed the business in 1960.

“She was willing to help someone she didn’t even know get an education,” says Ashley Gayles. “I wish there were more people like that.”

In 1962, she married Henry Friedman, a career employee at Pacific Gas and Electric Company. Showing her commitment to education and her love for UC Berkeley, Friedman created a gift annuity and two Charitable Remainder Trusts at Cal to establish the Phyllis Epstein Friedman Achievement Award Scholarship that provided support to Ashley Gayles. “She’s so sweet!” says Gayles, who was delighted to meet and talk with her benefactor while Gayles attended Berkeley. “I was glad to have the opportunity to thank her in person. She was willing to help someone she didn’t even know get an education. I wish there were more people like that.”

Read the complete story in Cal Futures.