College Matters | Cal Poly Humboldt is Boldly Rising

This article was originally posted in the College Matters column of the Times-Standard.

Thursday, October 27, 2022 - 2:00pm

There was once this kid from Seattle who wanted to run track and field after high school. He hadn’t considered college earlier and never took the placement tests. If he did attend college, he would become the first in the family to do so. As he explored options, this kid learned he could run track at the nearby community college, while also taking classes.

He arrived on that first day and found it invigorating. He met other students, bonded with his track and field teammates, and did OK in classes. Two of his favorite classes were geology and history of jazz, and he still remembers the presentation he had to give for his final grade in the jazz class.

This kid’s family didn’t have the resources to pay for college. They weren’t poor, they just didn’t have the disposable income to add college expenses to the monthly expenses. It wasn’t long before this young kid was running out of money for college. If not for a perfectly timed scholarship he received from the Salvation Army and other generous donors, that student may not have finished that trimester in college. Today, that kid is me, Tom Jackson.

College was a positive challenge. Some days it was fun. Most days it was hard work. Good work. Aspirational work toward a goal. The people around me, including the faculty and coaches supporting me, were a big part of who I became and what I believe today. They asked for very little in return, just that I work hard, stay committed, and be a good teammate. Some hinted to me that, when I was in a position to help others — do so.

Today, this kid is very proud to be serving as president at Cal Poly Humboldt, and absolutely committed to making sure that today’s students have a positive and meaningful educational experience. I believe strongly in higher education, and I’m deeply grateful for the big group of volunteers who have been working tirelessly to raise funds to support Humboldt students.

Then there’s this other kid who grew up about the same time in Bridgeville, right here in Humboldt County. He attended a three-room school until eighth grade, and he enjoyed running wild in the woods and fields and even on many of the private ranches. When he got older, his family moved to the big city of Fortuna for him to attend high school and participate in his sports, football and wrestling.

This kid also attended community college, going to College of the Redwoods. He stopped and started college a few times, worked quite a while in lumber mills, and eventually was able to complete his degrees in computer information systems and business administration at Humboldt State University. Among other people, he connected with Dr. James Blaisdell and did research projects with him that were sponsored by NASA Ames. Eventually, he worked with him to launch a start-up business.

That kid is me, Dan Phillips. College opened my mind to new ideas and raised my sights. It led me into the technology field and business, and over many years I was privileged to work with some of the top leaders in the tech industry. Eventually, I became the chief technology officer at Hulu, and I’ve now moved on to pursuing new business opportunities. I’ve also thrown myself into supporting both Cal Poly Humboldt and College of the Redwoods, convinced that this will not only help kids like me but will serve to create prosperity on the North Coast. I still visit often, and many of my family members and closest friends still live here.

Each of us are committed to higher education and to helping students pursue their dreams. And there are many others like us, who have come together to launch the most significant fundraising effort in Humboldt’s history.

That effort was unveiled earlier this week. It’s called Boldly Rising: the Campaign for Cal Poly Humboldt.

Boldly Rising is about stepping up and supporting young people. There’s just so much energy and passion behind this, and people can really see the possibilities and the impact we can have.

The effort is being led by volunteers on the Campaign Cabinet and on the Cal Poly Humboldt Foundation Board. Already, since the start of the campaign’s quiet phase in 2020, donors have committed more than $33 million toward a goal of at least $50 million. We plan to complete the effort within two to three years.

Boldly Rising is Humboldt’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, and it builds on the momentum of the recent polytechnic designation. It will allow Cal Poly Humboldt to provide greater access and create new opportunities for students. The campaign prioritizes:

  • Expanding access through scholarships and other support;
  • Supporting hands-on learning opportunities;
  • Creating a tech-forward campus;
  • Enhancing the academic experience; and
  • Acting for equity.

This effort is led by amazing volunteers on the Boldly Rising Campaign Cabinet and on the Cal Poly Humboldt Foundation Board.

The Boldly Rising Campaign Cabinet:

  • Dan Phillips ‘91 – Chair
  • Philip Anton ‘98 – Vice Chair
  • Carin Kaltschmidt ‘90 – Vice Chair
  • Jack McGurk ‘66 – Vice Chair
  • Robin Smith ‘78 – Vice Chair
  • Robin Bailie ‘11
  • John Ballard ’80
  • Ed Bowler ‘79
  • Ceva Courtemanche ‘07
  • Jacob Furgatch ‘82
  • Sherie Cornish Gordon
  • Jenny Harris
  • Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr.
  • Cooper Jones
  • Amine Khechfé, Parent
  • Robert Miller, ‘85
  • Rebecca Pardoe ‘93
  • Barbara Perry-Lorek, Parent
  • Sharon Redd
  • Dan Sealy ’75
  • Robin Venuti ‘79
  • Frank Whitlatch

The Cal Poly Humboldt Foundation Board:

  • Jenny Harris – Board Chair
  • Robin Smith ‘78 – Vice Chair and Incoming Chair
  • Gary Blatnick ‘83 – Treasurer
  • Frank Whitlatch – Executive Director and Secretary
  • Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr. – Cal Poly Humboldt President
  • Eden Donahue ‘09 – Faculty Representative
  • Phillip Anton ‘98
  • Robin Bailie ‘11
  • Jason Carlson
  • Kurt Fraese ‘82
  • Kenneth Fulgham ‘70
  • Scott Hunt
  • Dan Johnson
  • Carin Kaltschmidt ‘90
  • Jennifer Keller
  • Jack McGurk ‘66
  • Heidi Moore-Guynup ‘98

You can learn more at or by contacting the Cal Poly Humboldt Foundation at or 707-826-5200.

These are exciting times at Cal Poly Humboldt, with major new opportunities that will shape our region for decades to come. We hope you will consider being a part of it by participating in the Boldly Rising Campaign. Join us! It’s a way of making a positive impact, and it feels good to do good. Be well.

Dr. Tom Jackson Jr. is the president of Cal Poly Humboldt. Dan Phillips is an alumnus of both Cal Poly Humboldt and College of the Redwoods and is the chair of Cal Poly Humboldt’s Boldly Rising Campaign.