A Sound Investment
Eric Stern’s job takes him globetrotting. But when he isn’t away, the Cal alumnus has a standing dinner date. You’ll find him around the family table, savoring a meal and catching up with his wife, Rachel Kaganoff Stern, and their school-aged sons, Henri and Jonah.
“We have a deal,” explains Stern, a Los Angeles-based senior vice president for the Capital Group investment management firm. “I work long hours but if I’m in town, I’m home every night at 6 o’clock and we have a family dinner. It’s a really great time for us.”
Motivated by his love of family and super-sized enthusiasm for his wife’s culinary skills — Rachel, a Princeton alumna, is a talented home chef and food blogger — Stern makes good on his 6 pm commitment. “My boys are learning to be very good sous-chefs,” he notes.
The Sterns lead full and busy lives. Cognizant of their fortunate paths, they are public-spirited supporters of their communities and its valuable institutions.
Though nearly 400 miles and more than two decades removed from UC Berkeley, Eric Stern has a powerful allegiance to his alma mater. He wants to ensure its continued excellence as a top public research and teaching university. To that end, the Sterns have created the Eric H. and Rachel K. Stern Health Sciences Graduate Student Award, an endowment providing fellowship funding for students in health and biomedical sciences at Berkeley.
“I feel so strongly that Cal is a resource to the state of California, the country and the world,” says Stern, a Phi Beta Kappa recipient who earned his B.S. in business administration in 1987. “It’s a fabulous institution.”
Stern, a fourth-generation Californian and triathlete-in-training, grew up in Burlingame. Both his parents attended UC Berkeley; their first date was at the venerable local pub Larry Blakes.
“I loved my time at Cal,” Stern says. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” He credits Berkeley with teaching him independence and self-sufficiency. A gifted student with a knack for finance, Stern plunged into the campus’s political and social life. He was an ASUC senator and served as treasurer of Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity.
After graduation, Stern worked for two years and then headed to Stanford for an M.B.A. In 1991, he landed a job at the Capital Group — and has been there ever since. “I’m really happy with what I do,” says Stern, a portfolio manager for large institutional clients.
The Sterns have been married since 1994. Rachel Stern, a former political scientist at the Rand Corp., is active in volunteer and political causes and has her own food blog, www.insidethekaganoffkitchen.com.
Her close ties to Princeton inspired Eric Stern to re-engage with Berkeley. Aware of the particular challenges facing the public university, “I realized what a need there was for Cal alums to step up.”
The Sterns wanted to make a gift with personal meaning — and high impact for UC Berkeley and beyond. As a research analyst earlier in his career, Stern was intrigued by the potential of the human genome project. He was likewise excited by the breakthrough work emanating from the Berkeley Health Sciences Initiative.
The couple considers graduate students vital to “the lifeblood of the campus” through their involvement in cutting-edge research and the ever-important mission of undergraduate education. With their fellowship, the Sterns concluded they could help Berkeley continue to attract “the best and the brightest” while making a significant contribution to a world-class — and beloved — institution.
For the Sterns, it’s been an investment worth making.
—By Abby Cohn