After reading “every page” of Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges, Jane Zimmerman Ettinger ’81 applied early decision to Occidental “sight unseen—and I got in,” says the Palo Alto native.
As a first-year student, she took Oxy’s team-taught, interdisciplinary Collegium program, which fulfilled many of her general education requirements and introduced her to professors such as Roger Boesche and Bob Winter. She wound up majoring in English, making lifelong friends and eventually meeting and marrying Bob Ettinger, a UCLA graduate and investment professional.
Longtime supporters of the College, the Ettingers have made an impact across multiple touchpoints in the student experience. In 2012, they established the Ettinger Family Endowed Fund for Supporting Learning Differences, which supports the work of Oxy’s Disability Office. “A lot of students come to Oxy with undiagnosed or undeclared learning differences,” Ettinger says. “They did really well in high school despite the fact that they had some kind of processing issue with reading or ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder).”
Working with Ettinger, then-Senior Associate Dean of Students Erica O’Neal Howard initiated both professional diagnostic assessment for students and training to bring faculty up to speed on working with students who needed accommodations—“like asking for extra time on tests or sitting in the front of the classroom if they have a focus or hearing problem,” Ettinger says. “These are different kinds of needs that the professors weren’t necessarily used to.”
The couple’s interest in supporting learning differences is personal: One of their sons in on the autism spectrum. “If he had gone to Oxy, he would have been able to succeed with this kind of support.” (Their son attended community college and works from home in computer programming; his younger brother graduated from Harvey Mudd and works as a mechanical electrical engineer.)
In addition, the Ettingers have funded poetry and art initiatives through Oxy Arts and several academic departments, helping bring new creative experiences to campus. Their support extends to a pair of scholarships as well. The Sister Circle Class of ’81 and ’82 Scholarship was launched in 2014 through the support of Ettinger and eight of her classmates, and provides financial aid for one or more students each year, with preference given to female students.
In 2021, in response to the Edgerton-Occidental Endowed Merit Scholarship Challenge, the Ettingers created the Ettinger Family Endowed Merit Scholarship to attract talented middle-class California students who otherwise could not afford a private liberal arts college. “Most middle-income households can’t afford to send their kids to Oxy,” Ettinger says. “That’s why we really believe in scholarship support.”
The Ettingers’ generosity goes to the heart of The Oxy Campaign For Good. “Our philosophy philanthropically is we’re not going to wait until we die to give money away,” she adds. “We believe in helping people when they need it now.”