Jan. 16, 2009
Jack Gifford, a former UCLA baseball letterwinner and dedicated supporter of the Bruins' baseball and golf programs, passed away on Sunday, Jan. 11, at his vacation home in Hawaii. Gifford played first base for the Bruins in the early 1960s and became one of the program's most enthusiastic supporters after graduating from UCLA in 1963.
Gifford earned a scholarship to play baseball at UCLA, where he played alongside former head coach Gary Adams. An avid and longtime baseball fan, Gifford generously supported several California college baseball programs - Stanford, California, Santa Clara, San Jose State and UCLA.
"I never played with a more confident or competitive player," said Adams. "He was the kind of player you wanted most on your team - committed to excellence, hard work and whatever was best for the team. I never met a man who loved baseball more than Jack - not just watching it being played; I mean actually getting out there on the field and playing it.
"He played his entire life with the enthusiasm and energy of a little boy. Year in and year out there was no man who supported UCLA baseball more than Jack Gifford. UCLA baseball will miss him. I will miss him. He was, most of all, my good friend."
Most recently, Gifford funded the construction of UCLA's nearly-completed Jack and Rhodine Gifford Hitting Facility, a state-of-the-art practice facility spanning 10,500-square feet at Jackie Robinson Stadium. For years, Gifford's donations aided college baseball programs with equipment, uniforms, facilities and travel.
"Jack was a man of passion, energy and loyalty," head baseball coach John Savage said. "The love he had for UCLA and our baseball program was unmatched. His enthusiasm for baseball was visible every time he was at Jackie Robinson Stadium. The entire UCLA community appreciates everything Jack has done for it. The brand new Jack and Rhodine Gifford Hitting Facility will be the best one in the country and will serve as another example of their generosity and giving."
Also a generous supporter of the Bruins' golf program, Gifford completely funded the golf program's on-campus practice facility, located on the north end of UCLA's intramural field and affectionately nicknamed "The Giff". The facility includes a team performance center, boasts a natural grass tee area and a 3,000-square foot practice green available to both golf programs. In 2005, Gifford founded the CordeValle Classic, a 54-hole collegiate competition in San Martin, Calif.
"I credit much of the recent success of both of our golf teams to Jack's commitment to UCLA," head women's golf coach Carrie Forsyth said. "Jack was a mover and a shaker who had a zest for life that was palpable to everyone in his presence."
"Jack's impact on UCLA and our golf programs will be felt by Bruins for generations," head men's golf coach Derek Freeman said. "His support of our tournament, the CordeValle Classic, has made it one of the best college events in the country."
Born in 1941, Gifford grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from UCLA in 1963. He began his career in the semiconductor industry with Fairchild Semiconductor. In 1983, he founded Maxim Integrated Products and served as the company's CEO. Widely considered one of the "founding fathers" of the analog microchip industry, Gifford retired as the company's CEO in 2007.
Numerous UCLA ballplayers have spent their summer playing for Gifford's summer baseball team, the Maxim Yankees. Gifford served as the team's general manager and, most recently, worked with current UCLA baseball players Raul Duran, Jordan Haver and Dustin Quist.
Gifford passed away at the age of 68 and is survived by his wife Rhodine, his three daughters - Laural Lynch, Tracy Jones and Jacquelyn Disney - and his 10 grandchildren. A local and private memorial service is planned for next week.