San Marcos

Jan and Esther Stearns have long been committed to advancing the quality of life of all individuals while holding dear the values of inclusion, educational access and social justice. Jan Stearns manages the day-to-day activities of their family, which includes their adopted foster children and their foundation. She also takes time to mentor students. The Stearns first became aware of California State University San Marcos’ work with former foster youth in 2008 after reading an article about ACE Scholars Services, the university’s innovative program that addresses the low educational attainment rate of foster youth by meeting their unique needs.

After meeting ACE staff and students, Jan and Esther knew they wanted to get involved with the program. In 2014, they donated $1 million in support of ACE. In recognition of their generosity, the university named the program’s renovated space as the Jan and Esther Stearns Center for ACE Scholars. The Stearns take pride in knowing that students who lack resources are able to successfully enter and graduate from college as a result of their philanthropic support to ACE.

Esther and Jan continue to advocate strongly on behalf of California State University San Marcos for access to higher education and its impact on the quality of life for former foster youth. While living in San Diego, Esther and Jan were active at Good Samaritan Episcopal Church, where Jan served on the board as well as several subcommittees. Additionally, they both actively served in leadership roles at The Children’s School, a progressive school in La Jolla.

Since relocating to San Francisco, Esther and Jan helped design, implement and co-found the Braid Mission program, which works to build community around foster youth in the Bay Area. They have also been active sponsors of the Foster Youth Museum exhibition at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

Throughout California, Esther and Jan have helped foster youth realize their dreams of attending college. They continue to provide the great equalizer – access to higher education – to those who do not often have a voice heard.

In recognition of their outstanding accomplishments, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and California State University San Marcos are proud to confer upon Jan Stearns the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.