Lasting Lessons from Our Founders,
Joyce and Larry Stupski
Nov. 8, 2021
Since the passing of our co-founder Joyce Stupski this summer, we have been thinking about the imprints that Joyce and Larry left on our lives and the lives of so many people in the communities they called home. We are deeply grateful to the community partners, colleagues, and friends who reached out to share how Joyce and Larry impacted them and their own social change efforts. It is inspiring and humbling to hear from people who benefited from the Stupskis’ efforts and who continue to create meaningful change across our communities. Each message we received brought us closer to them and recommitted us to the work the couple started together.
Below we share some of the valuable lessons that our board, staff, and grantee partners learned from the Stupskis that will guide us as we work together to honor their legacy through our spend down.
Double down on what matters
“In the last chapter of her life after Larry passed away, Joyce doubled down on what mattered to them as a couple. She devoted more time to the Foundation that bears their name and led the decision, years before it became fashionable, to spend down the Foundation’s funds over a decade in order to urgently address areas where she felt people had less access and opportunity because of the color of their skin or the ZIP code in which they live. She wasn’t afraid of making mistakes or going big. She was always there, ready to encourage you to reach beyond what you thought was possible. We will carry her words, deeds, and inspiration with us always.” —Kelvin Taketa, board member
Never stop learning
“As each of us take our own journey through life, we occasionally meet colleagues who inspire us, become friends, and if we are lucky have those friendships grow over multiple decades. After working for years with Larry and Joyce Stupski at the Charles Schwab Corporation, I am grateful to have retained a friendship with each of them until they passed.
“Throughout the course of our time together, I admired how Larry and Joyce approached their philanthropic endeavors. In every stage of the Stupski Foundation’s evolution, there was intellectual rigor, a willingness to openly explore options, a desire to learn from others, and a passion about creating impact with the work. That formula is literally key to who both Larry and Joyce were as individuals.
“Larry was an active learner who read constantly and loved to learn what others were doing that he might apply in his own organization. I cannot tell you how many articles he ripped out of airline magazines and handed to me to read so we could discuss! Joyce was a voracious reader in her own right and dedicated her career to advancing education for youth from low-income communities. Together, they were kindred spirits. I am proud of what Larry and Joyce created and humbled to have the opportunity to honor them by continuing their work. I miss my friends but feel an incredible sense of purpose in advancing their legacy. If our lives are measured by how we impact the world around us, both Joyce and Larry have set a very high standard.” —Jim Wiggett, board chair
Dig into your passions and share them with those you care about
“My dad had a deep passion for baseball. As a kid growing up in Wallingford, Connecticut, his first love was the Yankees, and when we moved to the Bay Area in 1978, he bought season tickets for both the Giants and the A’s. Eventually, after careful analysis, he committed himself—and the family—to the National League (announced in a letter sent to me at summer camp!), and Giants fans we became. From teaching me how to keep score to using an invitation to a game as a way to connect with an old friend or make a new one to arranging for his nieces and nephews to be bat boys and girls to his—eventually—infamous Opening Day celebrations, so many friends and family members caught the baseball bug from my father.” —Maida Lynn, board member and daughter of Larry Stupski
Humility is key
“Joyce was always one to shy away from the limelight and was the invisible force behind the success of the 18,000 students and 270 teachers who have benefited from the program thus far and the thousands more who will benefit from HIKI NŌ as it continues to evolve into the future. Her immense, positive impact on Hawai‘i, through her support of HIKI NŌ and many other local causes, will be her lasting legacy here in the islands.” —Ron Mizutani, PBS Hawaiʻi president and CEO
“Larry had a remarkable analytical mind and an almost unworldly memory, which was never more obvious than when it came to baseball trivia. He brought humility to his philanthropic work that was forged by his intellectual rigor. That combination allowed him to recognize what he knew and, most importantly, what he didn’t. He understood that the circumstances of social impact work required patience and a sense of flexibility that did not come easily from his private sector experience. We strive to apply Larry’s humility, appetite for learning, and purposefulness to every aspect of our work.” —Kelvin Taketa, board member
Eat Cheetos and cookies
“We always had a stash of Cheetos on hand at the office for Joyce. I loved that this incredibly well-traveled, artistic, chic, and intelligent woman had a love of junk food like the rest of us.” —Claire Callahan, director of communications
“Joyce loved cookies, and I was never afraid to eat cookies at board meetings. This is a serious thing. It made me feel like I could be a real person at board meetings.” —Jennifer Nguyen, director of postsecondary success
Lead with love
“Joyce wasn’t just our benefactor … she was our leader and inspiration. She was loving, deeply caring, and generous in all ways. These core values were evident in everything Joyce did and drove the Foundation’s work. Joyce’s memory will remind us to always lead with love and invest in relationships. She is and will remain profoundly missed.” —Tom Layton, board member
“Joyce loved the team at Stupski, literally everyone and anyone who joined our ranks. She always wanted to know how everyone was doing. She wanted to talk with us and see us. She believed strongly in the humanity and intelligence of the people involved in our philanthropic endeavors, and she extended this out to the people who lived in the communities we serve.” —Glen Galaich, CEO
“From the moment I met Joyce Stupski, I knew our work at SFJAZZ Education was on the cusp of a dramatic transformation. Her unwavering support of our mission and her commitment to improving the lives of children in our Bay Area communities will remain cherished sources of inspiration.
“Joyce was all about impact—deep and long lasting—and in asking us to rethink and recalibrate what we do and how we do it, she led us on the journey toward equity in arts education. In empowering our department to expand and evolve, Joyce reminded us of the value of sustained commitment that is required of the entire organization at SFJAZZ. She also knew that the road ahead was difficult and long, that we would need to reexamine and adjust along the way.
“I will always treasure her memory, not just because she believed in us but because she challenged us to think beyond any perceived or real barriers. Joyce was a force to be reckoned with, a force for change, and SFJAZZ will be forever transformed because of her.” —Rebeca Mauleón, SFJAZZ Director of Education
“Joyce encouraged us to think big about the solutions we support and to take the lead from community leaders and people with lived experience in that effort. No matter what we did, her main goal was to ensure that kids and students, people living with serious illness, and people experiencing hunger were being served. As a team, we each keep Joyce’s mission at the forefront of our work, and we commit to 1) thinking big, 2) remembering the humanity of the people on our team, and 3) centering real perspectives from our communities in all that we do.” —Glen Galaich, CEO
Build trust through ongoing partnerships
“I always appreciated Joyce’s focus on deep partnership, on establishing trust through sustained engagement with some of our most important partners. She saw in-person time as invaluable for building those relationships. Though we had to adapt during COVID-19, that emphasis remains.” —Dan Tuttle, director of health
“Joyce’s love for Larry shone in her eyes each time she spoke of him. While I did not have the privilege of meeting Larry, I feel like I came to know him as a person over the years that I worked for Joyce. She often shared stories and memories of Larry, reflecting on their love and work together. I heard from many people that Joyce and Larry were soul mates. Above all else, Joyce wanted to carry on the legacy she and Larry created and to make him proud. Their connection is a shining example of how long-lasting love does exist. It will now live on through all of us at Stupski as we work to fulfill their shared vision.” —Lorree Novotny, director of accounting and finance
Bring leaders with lived experience into philanthropy
“Joyce Stupski gave me a chance—someone who had spent their career working with students but had little experience in foundations and philanthropy prior to getting this job. This seems to have been an intentional and ongoing approach she brought into the Foundation. When I had the opportunity to build out my team, I carried this into the hiring of our program officers. Like Joyce, I deeply value lived and professional experience in our education systems. This is also imprinted in our internship program, where we hire students from the communities we work in to take a seat at the decision-making table to inform initiatives that will impact them and their communities. Joyce’s legacy is helping us shake up who is ‘invited’ to be a part of the exclusive space of philanthropy, which should not be exclusive to begin with.” —Jennifer Nguyen
Have other lessons to share from your time and work with Joyce and Larry? Please share them with us by emailing Claire at firstname.lastname@example.org.