University Advancement

Frances M. Moceri House
3151 University Dr.
Auburn Hills, MI 48326
(248) 370-4504
Fax: (248) 370-3182
giving@oakland.edu

John Dodge House
507 Golf View
Rochester, MI 48309-4488

man in a black Oakland University t-shirt leaning on a wall outside

Campus and Community Impact

When people, partnerships and passion intersect, incredible transformation occurs. On the Oakland University campus, philanthropy can be found everywhere, impacting the lives of our students, faculty, staff and alumni in ways large and small.

Student success, research, discovery and opportunity are all impacted through philanthropic vision and commitment. Oakland University is blessed with a generous community of supporters who share our vision. Stories of impact are everywhere and we are proud to share stories of some of the philanthropists making a difference in the Oakland University community.

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Food for the Soul

I think most people need to have a goal or purpose in order to enjoy life.  This may be especially true for retirees.” - Professor Emeritus, George Gamboa, Ph.D. 

When the Golden Grizzlies Pantry officially opened its doors in fall 2018, George, OU Professor Emeritus, and his wife, Teresa Gamboa, OU retiree, immediately responded to its call to action.

They saw an opportunity to address a need they had first witnessed many years ago.

“I personally knew undergraduate and graduate students who were struggling financially.” Gamboa shares, reflecting on his 32 years of teaching biology at OU. “Some of these students were co-authors on our research publications who were working multiple jobs, and for graduate students, this was in addition to their assistantship.” 

As a professor, George was a proud advocate for his students. As retirees, George and Teresa have become cherished activists. “As students once ourselves, we know how hard it can be,” Teresa shares.

George and Teresa donate approximately 400 pounds of food each month to the Golden Grizzlies Pantry.

“The pantry wouldn’t be what it is today without their contributions,” says pantry manager, Bella Levitt, graduate assistant and master’s program intern.

True to their caring nature, the Gamboas are always thoughtful in their contributions. 

George contacts the pantry ahead of time to determine what items the pantry needs most.

Over the years, the Gamboas have become familiar with student favorites (hint: it’s not green beans), and they take pride in knowing their donations are flying off the shelves. “We have learned a lot about students; we didn’t realize pop-top canned goods were so important,” Teresa says, noting that students do not always have access to a can opener.

In recent years, with the pandemic and rising costs of food, the Gamboas’ support has meant more to the pantry than ever.

“When we have a week that our shelves are getting low, I think to myself, the Gamboas are coming next week, we will be okay.” Levitt says.

Five years after first stocking its shelves, it’s hard to imagine Oakland University without the Golden Grizzlies Pantry.

Before Raenece (Rae) Johnson, CAS ‘18, lecturer and coordinator of field education for the social work program at OU, began her research with the director of OU’s social work program, Maria Beam, Ph.D., SEHS ’19, the idea that Oakland University students were struggling with food insecurity wasn’t widely understood.

As part of her graduate-level internship, Johnson spent two years researching food insecurity at Oakland University, and what other colleges in our state and across the country were doing to help students.  “When we think about OU’s student retention plan,” Johnson shares, “we have to think about students’ state of well-being and its impact on their success. We view the Golden Grizzlies Pantry as a major contributor to OU’s strategic plan.”

As a result of Johnson and Dr. Beam’s research, and with the help of Jean Ann Miller, senior director for the office of student involvement, the Golden Grizzlies Pantry was born.

Housed in a central location on campus, the pantry is easily accessed by shoppers. In summer 2022, the pantry moved to a larger space in the Oakland Center basement, now located in room 49G.

In addition to the recent move, the pantry was awarded a grant through Swipe Out Hunger, an organization dedicated to ending hunger on college campuses, which allowed the Golden Grizzlies Pantry to purchase a large refrigerator. Shoppers can now access yogurt, milk, OU’s Campus Student Organic farm produce, and other perishable items that were previously unavailable without refrigeration. 

The pantry aims to address the specific needs of Oakland University's unique student body; including OU’s large populations of commuter students, non-traditional students and transfer students.

“I knew food insecurity existed, but when I took this job, it really shocked me how big a problem this truly is,” Levitt says.  “I feel really lucky to have this job. Once I started doing this work, I realized I can do really great things”. 

Unlike other pantries, no appointment is needed and no personal information is required from shoppers. Visiting the pantry will never impact a student’s ability to receive financial aid. “Anyone in the OU community who could benefit from the pantry should use it.” Johnson says, “If you don’t have access to adequate, nutritious food, then the pantry is for you.”

In addition to food and toiletry items, the pantry now offers a garment closet. Shoppers can choose and keep an unlimited number of clothing items. Levitt hopes to one day offer more career wear like scrubs, graduation caps and robes.

Today, Johnson still works closely with the pantry as an advisor. Both she and Levitt consider the Gamboas as family. “We are so thankful for the Pioneer Club bringing them to us,” Johnson glows. 

Outside of their work with the pantry, George and Teresa have been loyal supporters of many important initiatives at Oakland University. In 2003, they established their endowment, the G & T Gamboa Behavior & Ecology Student Research Endowment, to support undergraduate and graduate students pursuing studies in biology.

As to why the Gamboas continue to support students at Oakland University, Teresa answers simply, “Our students are our future.”

Learn more about the Golden Grizzlies Food Pantry.