Jesse Ante ’68, M.S. ’70 just can’t seem to say no. And The Achievement Award Program can’t thank him enough.
Jesse, as a first-generation student at UC Berkeley’s School of Engineering, was able to attend Cal in part because he was awarded a Cal Alumni Association (CAA) scholarship. In gratitude for the opportunity, Jesse has become one of the Achievement Award Program’s most generous and effective ambassadors, endowing scholarships and convincing others to follow suit.
“I was fortunate enough to graduate from Cal without any debt and to be able to put my own kids through college,” says Jesse. “And it was worrisome to me that there are outstanding students who may not go to school simply because they don’t have the financial means.”
Jesse established three CAA scholarship endowments: one in honor of his parents through The Leadership Award and two through TAAP, one in his name, and another with the Pilipino American Alumni Chapter.
But those scholarships are just the start. Since 1992, Jesse has personally mentored 170 students through CAA, about 30 of whom are TAAP scholars.
“I can never seem to say ‘no’ to mentoring,” says Jesse. “One year, 2012, I was mentoring 26 students and had to go to eight different graduations!”
Jesse says he asks each mentee: “What three things can I help you with?”
“If they can’t tell me what those three things are, I then tell them, ‘I will teach you how to network, I will teach you how to make good decisions, and I will help you become more confident.”
“I think the TAAP scholars will continue to inspire me until I’ve gone to Bear heaven.”
Jesse was born in the Philippines. His father had to abandon his law studies when World War II broke out, and he served in the United States Army. The family moved to the United States when Jesse was eight, and his family settled in Hayward when he was 12. Jesse was the only Filipino American student at Tennyson High, where he thrived and was elected senior class president.
After earning his master’s degree in mechanical engineering, Jesse was drafted into the United States Army. “But at the time I didn’t want to shoot my Asian brothers, nor did I want to shame my father who was an Army veteran—so rather than run away from the military, I embraced it,” he says. “I joined the Air Force ROTC, and become a second lieutenant when I graduated.”
Jesse originally wanted to be the first Filipino American professor in engineering at Berkeley, but decided to enter the private sector instead. He worked for PG&E for 27 years, convincing the company to endow a TAAP scholarship, and built nuclear power plants throughout the state. After retiring, he became “Mr. Mom” for a year and later joined the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates all the utilities in the state.
Jesse was a member of the Cal Alumni Association’s Board of Directors in 1999, when UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Berdahl gave an impassioned speech urging the alumni association to establish a scholarship for low-income, first-generation students.
“Chancellor Berdahl was very inspirational that day,” says Jesse. “He shared his own experience about being a student who wanted to go to school, who was qualified to go to school, but maybe didn’t have the financial means to go to school.”
TAAP quickly became a passion for Jesse. When he would interview potential TAAP scholars and hear their life stories, the challenges they have overcome, and their aspirations, he couldn’t bear not to help. “I wanted to give every one of them a scholarship,” he says. “But in reality, I couldn’t do that, so that’s when I became a fundraiser for TAAP instead of an interviewer—I realized I could have more of an impact that way.”
His impact is still growing. Jesse says that the more he interacts with the TAAP scholars, the more he wants to fundraise for the program. “The most rewarding part may be seeing them grow and blossom in their careers and lives,” he says, his voice breaking. “It makes me emotional just to think about them. I think the TAAP scholars will continue to inspire me until I’ve gone to Bear heaven.”