Michelle Gamboa endows the first faculty fellowship in honor of her father

Michelle Gamboa

A 2005 graduate of the School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics, Michelle Gamboa has long been an active supporter of UW Bothell. In 2019, she took her support to the next level by making the largest gift from any alumni to UW Bothell on the inaugural Husky Giving Day. Her gift? A $100,000 faculty endowment — named in honor of her father.

By Michelle Gamboa

“The world may not always be kind, but no one can take away your education and achievements,” my father would say. “Stay focused, put in the work, and anything is possible.” Resilience, confidence and faith in education: My father, Ronald G. Gamboa, had those qualities in spades.

Who was he? An American, a career U.S. Navy Senior Chief, an immigrant from the Philippines, a mentor to many and the most influential person in my life. He cut short his engineering studies when he moved to the United States where he met and married my mother, but he remained steadfast in his convictions about the power of education.

I was a tomboy, and I loved school, especially math and science. I also loved science fiction and video games. My father always encouraged my interest in technology, and I dreamed of working in the gaming industry. But when high school graduation approached, I wasn’t sure what came next. I considered joining the military’s officer training program, but my dad encouraged me to go to college as a civilian. “I’ll proudly salute you if you become an officer,” he said, “but try this path first.”

I enrolled at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, to study computer science. At that time, there was no clear path for women in STEM — no female role models that I could see. I struggled to connect my video game dream to my daily studies. Then I moved to Seattle with my fiancé, taking a hiatus from school to work in the burgeoning Microsoft Games division.

That job helped me see the connection between my passion and computer science. I knew I could advance further. With my father’s words echoing in my head, I decided to return to school to finish my bachelor’s degree. And that’s how I discovered UW Bothell.

From the minute I set foot on campus, I could feel how hands-on the School of STEM was. The faculty made computer science sing. Dr. Carol Zander, my adviser and a brilliant mathematician, broke down concepts better than anyone I’ve ever seen. I still channel her instruction today in my job at Adobe!

Sr. Chief Ronald G. Gamboa
Sr. Chief Ronald G. Gamboa

The School of STEM at UW Bothell is truly special. Female role models — among the administration, faculty and classmates — abound. I am blown away by some of the research that I’ve seen there, including a study on zebrafish that has implications for human heart health, innovative deep dives into the Internet of Things and the rapidly growing field of cybersecurity. UW Bothell is a really good place to do all these things. The faculty are thinking about everything as a whole and in context, not just the hot topics. Like my dad, the STEM faculty inspired and pushed me.

“Supporting students is critical — but we often forget that faculty also need support. Given my gratitude to the teachers in my life, I knew my contribution would be to the faculty who make UW Bothell so special.”

As a very proud UW Bothell alumna, I have long been determined to find a special way to honor my father and give back to the school. I was one of the earliest members of UW Bothell’s Alumni Council, a group dedicated to creating opportunities for alumni to engage with one another, students and their alma mater, while fundraising to ensure access and opportunity for students through the UW Bothell Alumni Endowed Scholarship. As a STEM Advisory Board member, I get to see firsthand the impact that endowments make.

Supporting students is critical — but we often forget that faculty also need support. Given my gratitude to the teachers in my life, I knew my contribution would be to the faculty who make UW Bothell so special.

When I saw the incredible change that the Campaign for UW Bothell is bringing to campus, I wanted to be a part of it. I knew that this was the time. So I made a contribution that was meaningful to me — and employee matching from Adobe amplified its impact.

My gift provides faculty support in honor of my father. The Sr. Chief Ronald G. Gamboa Endowed UW Bothell STEM Faculty Fellowship will give faculty more freedom to pursue their most creative and innovative ideas.

An endowment also draws others to give. It’s a multiplier, just like the greatest teachers can be. Like my father was. This is the first endowment of its kind at UW Bothell, but it won’t be the last.

I’m so excited to do this now, at this moment in UW Bothell’s growth — to be able to see what the faculty will do with it, and the ripple effect. Everything that the faculty fellows supported by this endowment publish will include my father’s name. It matters to me that his legacy will be attached to amazing discoveries and research.

I want this endowment to grow, and I hope other faculty endowments will be built, by individuals and groups alike. What a wonderful way to honor the people, ideas and institutions who help us realize our passion.

Read more about Michelle’s inspiration and journey to honor her father on her website.