Rich and Joan Corgel, who just celebrated their 33-year wedding anniversary, first met at the Los Angeles Athletic Club gym in 1984. Their daughter, Stefanie (Kinesiology, '14), just made a gift to support renovations to the women’s locker room in the Otter Sports Center. For the Corgel family, gyms are a special place.
“We’ve always led an active life,” says Rich, who coached his children in baseball, basketball and softball. “It’s very important to the fabric of our family.”
Out of all the 23 campuses, CSUMB has— Joan Corgel
greatestpotential for growth.
An incoming transfer student from UC Santa Barbara, Stefanie joined the CSUMB women’s basketball team as a point guard under Coach Renee Jimenez in 2011. She transferred in part to work with Renee, and in part because CSUMB offered kinesiology, the major she wanted. Leaving an NCAA Division 1 team wasn’t an easy decision for Stef, but it quickly paid off—the woman’s basketball team had a championship-winning season Stefanie’s first year, and her faculty, coach and teammates quickly became a second family.
“Playing in the Otter Sports Center was such a highlight of my life,” recalls Stef. “The stands would be packed. We couldn’t even hear the plays called, it was so loud. We had to come up with hand signals.”
Rich and Joan were often there, too, cheering Stef and her teammates on, and high-fiving with the mascot. “I love that otter,” laughs Joan. “There’s nothin’ hotter than an otter!”
They supported the team off the court as well, working with the athletic department to craft a gift that would provide academic support to young female athletes. “We wanted to do something that would benefit the other women we knew on the basketball team, the people who were so supportive and kind to Stef,” says Rich.
The Corgels took advantage of the matching gift program offered by Ernst & Young, where Rich worked as an auditor and forensic accountant. “Ernst & Young is truly a champion of support through matching gifts,” he says. Their program matches gifts of both active employees and retirees, which Rich, now retired, again used to double the Corgel family’s latest gift to CSUMB. “The fact that they match retirees’ gifts shows they have a lifetime commitment to their people,” says Rich.
While sports are an important part of the Corgels’ connection to CSUMB, their history with the school goes back much further. Back in the early ’90s, Joan happened to meet California Governor Pete Wilson, who was looking for a regional trustee for the CSU.
As a trustee, Joan helped shepherd CSUMB into existence. “We were a very collaborative, like-minded board who got things done,” says Joan, who recalls how Leon Panetta ensured that when Fort Ord closed it would become a university rather than a penitentiary. “I was privileged to be at the opening of the campus when President Bill Clinton spoke.” Joan enjoyed talking to the students in CSUMB’s first class, and watching the university grow over the years.
“Out of all the 23 campuses, CSUMB has greatest potential for growth,” says Joan.
The opportunity to be part of a young, promising university was also part of what drew Stefanie to the school. “The newness and being able to quickly make change at CSUMB was an exciting component for me when I transferred. I saw the potential to leave my own legacy.”
Things really came full circle when, as a trustee emeritus, Joan was on stage at Stefanie’s commencement ceremony to hand her daughter her diploma.
Stef has twice the followers as CSUMB, including Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who has featured her in his campaigns.
After graduation, Stef worked as an assistant basketball coach for the Otters until she signed a contract to play professionally in La Spezia, Italy. That team won a championship, too, and she “came back to the U.S. on a high note.” Upon her return, Stefanie began her career as a strength and conditioning coach and sports and fitness model. She now splits her time between the family’s home in Manhattan Beach, California, and Portland, Oregon, where Nike, Adidas and Under Armour are headquartered. Her main gig is as an exercise programmer and trainer for a fitness app followed by four million women called Tone It Up. “I get to use my experience in modeling and college degree all in one,” says Stef.
She credits the rigor and practicality of the kinesiology program, which emphasized passing the well-respected National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist exam, with helping launch her into the fitness industry. “The professors really encouraged us to take the more difficult certifications, knowing it would feed directly into our careers. It was so spot on, it didn’t feel like I wasted a minute,” she says.
Now Stef is in a position to give back, a move she’s happy to make. “I’m super proud and happy to give now,” she says, seeing this as a chance to create a legacy of giving as well as a legacy in women’s basketball. “When the opportunity came to donate to new locker rooms, I was stoked to do it.”
The joy of giving animates Rich and Joan, too. “It just feels good,” says Joan. “You’re a happier person when you are the giver than the receiver. Giving is like an echo, it comes back multiple times.”
“We need the best educators, the best facilities, and the best students—and that only happens from external funds. People should remember the experiences that benefitted them the most, and see how they might support those efforts financially. It takes a lot of us to make a difference, but we can change people’s lives.”
And sometimes those beneficial, life-changing experiences happen in a gym.