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Meet Connie Matsui

The chair of the San Diego Foundation’s board of governors talks about her favorite places in the city, passion for philanthropy, and hopes for San Diego’s future

Fund for the Future

The San Diego Foundation celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015 by establishing its Fund for the Future program, an endowment that looks 40 years ahead and will support San Diego’s existing and emerging needs.

The endowment will fund: arts and culture programs; disaster preparedness and relief; education initiatives, especially for STEM fields; housing and shelter; public safety; and youth development.

Learn more at sdfoundation.org

You had a long career in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Why the switch to philanthropy?
Strategic planning is a passion of mine that I love to do, which I did for a long time at Biogen Idec. Before biotech, I worked for Wells Fargo Bank, which has always been involved in community development. As I was starting to think about retirement, I wanted to learn more about San Diego, because I hadn’t had as much time to devote to the community that I live in. The foundation was a great way to become an apprentice; it could teach me a lot about our region. The importance of giving back started in childhood for me, as the daughter of people of very limited means. I was given opportunities through education. And because of that, I feel compelled to help others experience generosity and empowerment.

Through your work with the foundation, what did you learn about San Diego that surprised you the most?
What surprised me was the consistency across different populations—the consistent belief in the future of San Diego, and how people are coming together to secure that future. As a region, we are blessed with great talent, diversity, and quality of life. As a result, we attract people who value that—those natural and human resources. In terms of our long-term future, people who live here (and also outside of San Diego) recognize what a fertile ground it is for successfully addressing social issues. It’s a great place to create a very enlightened and collaborative society.

What does our community need right now?
The biggest need is for us to have confidence and believe in our ability to work together toward a shared solution and success. I’m seeing an unprecedented level of collaboration, and sharing of resources and information. This is the launchpad this year, to really capitalize on that will and skill. The foundation’s focal point for 2016 is our Fund for the Future program. We have a series of events on the topics of education, age-friendly communities, play spaces, and community art, as a way to engage the public. Our goals for the growth of Fund for the Future are about increasing the numbers of people who get engaged, as well as the dollar amount for the endowment fund. Even a small donation to this fund can make a difference; we’re hoping that it will meet the community’s emerging needs and fund innovative projects.

What do you like best about San Diego?
The open space and natural beauty, but also the open-mindedness of the people that I come in contact with. It is a joy for me to go to Balboa Park. Through the San Diego Foundation, I became involved with the Balboa Park Conservancy, as a VP on that board. I discover something amazing and new every time I’m there. It’s always a highlight for me to go there.

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