Françoise Tourniaire Ph.D. ’84 has an adventurous spirit — except when it comes to the cold.
Françoise Tourniaire Ph.D. ’84 has an adventurous spirit—except when it comes to the cold.
That’s how Tourniaire, as a young math student from France, happened to land at UC Berkeley for a yearlong study-abroad program in 1979. Berkeley got the nod over chilly Cornell.
Tourniaire, who had been attending an all-women’s college in Paris, was eager to expand her horizons. She found exactly what she wanted at Berkeley.
“Within a week, I had totally fallen in love with the place,” says Tourniaire, who liked the campus so much that she returned here for her doctorate.
The university and nearby International House, where she’d chosen to live, bustled with people and possibilities. Tourniaire was dazzled by the diversity, whip-smart students, and intellectual and cultural offerings.
“At Berkeley, people were from all over the world. It didn’t matter much where you came from,” says Tourniaire, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in math from the University of Paris. In 1981, she was back in Berkeley for her Ph.D. in the recently launched Science and Mathematics Education program. This time, she stayed for good.
Today, Tourniaire runs FT Works, a South Bay consulting firm that helps technology companies create and improve their customer support services. She founded the company in 1998 after more than 20 years as a technology support and services executive.
Animated and athletic, she works from home and enjoys peddling to nearby meetings on a trusty road bike — “my company car,” she beams.
UC Berkeley has been a constant in Tourniaire’s life. She and her husband, Dominique Goupil MBA ’82, met at I-House and the eldest of their three children is a recent Cal graduate. But Tourniaire’s dedication to the campus extends beyond those family connections.
With a generous gift, she and Goupil recently established a new graduate fellowship through the campus’s Graduate Fellowships Matching Program. Along with helping Berkeley recruit and support top graduate students, Tourniaire hopes the donation will encourage others to lend their assistance to the campus at a much-needed time.
A passionate advocate of public education, Tourniaire worries about the steady erosion of state support for institutions like Berkeley. “If you believe in public education, you’ve got to fund it,” says Tourniaire. “Public education is the only way to give opportunity to everybody.”
Tourniaire considers UC Berkeley an especially precious resource. Berkeley, she notes, educates many of California’s most promising students, including a high percentage from low-income families. Additionally, the campus is a primary engine of ideas and innovation that fuel the region, the state, and beyond.
“It’s a quality-of-life issue,” says Tourniaire.
Tourniaire knows how valuable a graduate fellowship can be: She received one during her own Berkeley days. “I couldn’t have done without it,” says Tourniaire, who otherwise supported herself through graduate school.
Coming from a family of educators, she had originally considered a teaching career.
At the Science and Mathematics Education program, she joined a small cadre of students and professors examining the best approaches for teaching those disciplines. Her doctorate investigated how young children grasp and manage the abstract notion of proportions.
Outside of class, she tutored underrepresented Cal students in science and taught math to third graders at a Berkeley magnet school. She enjoyed hiking the hills around campus and making lifelong friends at I-House. “It was for me a very important place to live,” she says.
One of those friends, of course, was Goupil, who also grew up in France. Determined to practice English and immerse themselves in American culture, “we avoided each other very studiously at first,” Tourniaire recalls. Goupil is now the president of FileMaker Inc., a database software company based in Santa Clara.
And though she wound up venturing into technology instead of teaching, Tourniaire says her Berkeley Ph.D. not only “got me my first job,” but has proved helpful ever since. After graduation, Tourniaire went to work at Intel as a technical software trainer. She later worked for firms specializing in databases and customer relationship management.
At her own company, where she trains clients at startups and international enterprises alike, Tourniaire frequently pulls out her instructional toolkit. She is also the author of guides and handbooks focused on support operations. Volunteering at a local high school, Tourniaire is helping low-income teens become the first in their families to apply to and attend college.
“The way to succeed — and I don’t mean make a lot of money — is through education,” Tourniaire says. “There’s no other way.”
by Abby Cohn