Annual Hearts and Scholars dinner brings together UCSD students and donors


Scholarship recipients express their gratitude to generous benefactors on Feb. 11


Brennan Pursley never planned to continue his education after high school. Then he experienced first-hand how difficult life was without a degree. Today, Pursley is a double major in physics and applied mathematics at the University of California, San Diego. And he is captivated by physics research, thanks to a scholarship named for a former UC San Diego chancellor—who was a scholarship recipient himself—and his wife.

From cashier to line cook to “sandwich artist” at Subway, Pursley managed to get by after graduating from high school. But the work was often physically tiring, and at the end of the day he barely had spending money even though he still lived at home with his parents. Then he met his future wife and realized what their life together would be like if he did not have a college education, and career. “I knew she was something special and that was motivation enough for me to go back to school,” says Pursley.

With a new-found drive, Pursley enrolled in community college with the intention of becoming an engineer. It was there that he discovered his passion for physics.

“In high school, I had been a straight ‘C’ student,” Pursley recalls. “After one semester of college I was a straight ‘A’ student and I felt rejuvenated. I had to juggle a job with my studies which were getting more difficult, but I knew I was on the right path.”

When it was time to transfer to a university, Pursley was determined to attend UC San Diego, but worried about the cost of education. When he learned that he had received the Robert C. Dynes and Ann Parode Dynes Endowed Undergraduate Scholarship, Pursley was overwhelmed.

Thanks to the Dynes Scholarship, Pursley has been able to concentrate on his studies and participate in a variety of research opportunities at UC San Diego, rather than working and worrying about covering his educational costs.

Robert Dynes, UC president emeritus and a physicist himself, has spent his career in service to scientific advancement and educational opportunity. UC San Diego’s sixth chancellor and an active physics research professor at UCSD, Dynes and wife, Ann, are thrilled to be able to help a student participate in cutting-edge undergraduate research at UC San Diego.

“I was awarded a scholarship from a local insurance company when I was an undergraduate and I couldn’t have gone to school without it,” notes Dynes. “It makes all the difference in the world. I truly believe that every one of these students will go on to change the world.”

Pursley adds, “I became addicted to physics. Now, thanks to the Dynes scholarship, I have a lot more flexibility in the lab. I am running experiments and designing and testing new equipment.”

Working in the Basov Infrared Laboratory in the department of physics, Pursley is currently helping to design and assemble a Near Field Microscope and its ultra high vacuum chamber, a novel instrument that will advance research of superconductors.

In today’s challenging economic times, UC San Diego students are in need of support more than ever. Currently, 55 percent of undergraduates need financial aid, and only 16 percent of graduate students receive fellowships (graduate level scholarships). It is for this reason that UC San Diego—one of the top universities in the nation and ranked second in the U.S. for its positive impact on the region, state and country—launched a vigorous fundraising initiative to ensure both access and affordability for talented students of all social and economic backgrounds.

“Invent the Future” is a three-year, $50 million campaign to raise funding for undergraduate student scholarships and graduate student fellowships. The campaign calls upon UC San Diego’s alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and friends to help transform lives through the gift of education.

“I know I will succeed thanks to all the opportunities given to me by the UC system,” says Pursley. “Someday I hope to make a difference in a student’s life the way that others have made a difference in mine.”

The feeling of gratitude that Pursley and fellow scholarship recipients share will set the tone of the Hearts and Scholars dinner on Feb. 11, when students will have an opportunity to meet and share their stories with scholarship benefactors, including the Dyneses.

To learn more about supporting students at UC San Diego, please visit

Giving to UC San Diego

Founded in 1960, the University of California, San Diego is ranked the best value public university in California by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and the 7th best public university in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. But with higher education’s share of state revenue declining each year, UC San Diego must increasingly rely on financial support from private sources to pursue groundbreaking research and cutting-edge technologies. With the support of generous alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and friends, our campus can continue to provide local impact, national influence and global reach as one of the world’s leading education and research institutions. For more information, call 858-534-1610 or visit