Dorothy (Marie Richardson) Strauss was born on August 5, 1914, in Oakland, a third generation native Californian. She grew up in a Scotch-Irish Catholic family in the San Francisco bay area community of Alameda. She was popular as a girl, was a leader in school and was a good student. Unfortunately, when she was ready for college it was already the early years of the Depression; the family couldn't afford the $50 (annual!) tuition when she was admitted to Stanford, so she enrolled at "Cal" (it was never "UC Berkeley" to her).
Actually, her undergraduate career was quite protracted. To support herself and to help her brother through law school, she worked full time for a year between each year as a student.
Her lifelong love of literature got its start when she was an English major during her undergraduate years. Dorothy and Donald met in the late 1930's in the Central California town of Porterville where they both had jobs providing social services for emigrant farmers fleeing the Dust Bowl. Their lengthy courtship spanned her final college years to the early part of WWII. They wed in April 1943. After the war they spent a year in Ithaca, N.Y., where Don got a Masters from Cornell's new School of Industrial Relations. By the time they returned to Southern California in 1947, Dorothy was pregnant with the first of their three children, Gordon, followed two years later by Nancy and Duncan eight years after that.
In 1965 at age 51 Dorothy, mother of a college freshman, a high school junior and a third grader, enrolled as a graduate student in English at the just opened campus of the University of California at Irvine.
With her MA in hand she embarked on her teaching career; after brief stints at Cal State Fullerton and Orange Coast College, Dorothy settled in to more than 20 years on the faculty at Golden West Community College. She taught literature, composition, ESL and several courses she created in order to attract older students, especially women. Along the way she won awards for her teaching and became the first part-time faculty member to be given tenure. With some reluctance she retired in 1993; she was 79. After Don died in 1995, she created the foundation that carries his name, and helped select the first group of scholarship recipients—telephoning each one to personally deliver the good news—before passing away in 1997.
Don Strauss, resident of Newport Beach, California, was a key business executive with Beckman Instruments of Fullerton, California for more than 30 years. While he was very successful in business, his lifelong interest was in education. He established scholarships for students who were eligible for a college education, but could not afford the cost. There are longtime endowed Strauss scholarships at Stanford, U. C. Irvine, and Harvey Mudd College.
Always keenly interested in politics – national, state, county, or city – and believing that the best and the brightest' students could and would make a difference, Don Strauss created summer internships in Washington, D.C. The first two were established in the late 60's at Cornell University. They continue today. He subsequently established summer internships for students at Stanford University, University of Rhode Island, Cal Tech, and Harvey Mudd College.
These also are on-going.
Recognized by his friends, colleagues, business associates, and community as a man of wit, wisdom, and unimpeachable integrity, he left a legacy of his belief in young, bright students, and his hope for his country, state, and community.
In a welcoming letter to Strauss recipients, former Foundation board member Harrison "Steve" Stephens -- who was Don Strauss' great good friend for upwards of 65 years – wrote this:
"Don Strauss was a man of such shining integrity that you'd have trusted him with the deed to your house after knowing him an hour. He was an executive of a high-tech instrument company for more than 30 years even though he had no high-tech skills whatsoever. His wisdom was about people. His philosophy in dealing with others was always to allow them their dignity. His wit was perceptive but never cruel. When he retired, the company had to hire a hall to accommodate all the people who wanted to wish him well.
Public service was a great part of his life. In his hometown, Newport Beach, he was a member of the school board for ten years, served on the city council for 12 and became mayor of the city. He established a number of scholarships during his lifetime and certainly would approve this foundation's use of his wealth, although he'd insist that it be named for Dorothy as well, because public service was a major part of her life too."