Forever Tigers: Jerry Keithley – A Gift Made with Gratitude
What does it mean to leave a legacy? In simple terms, a legacy is passed from one generation to the next and often refers to gifts of money or property. However, leaving a personal legacy involves more than the financial assets you bestow on the younger generation. It’s about the actions you take during your life, the way those actions affect others, and how people remember you. People often think about leaving a legacy but don’t take the necessary steps for it to come to fruition. Others plan and take action to make an impact that lasts forever.
Jerome “Jerry” Keithley not only lived an amazing life, but planned, and entrusted his legacy with Pacific Athletics – a legacy that will impact Tigers for many generations to come.
Jerry, a 1938 graduate of the University of the Pacific and a former Tiger football player, passed away in March of 2019 at 102 years young. As part of his estate plans, Jerry decided to leave a generous gift to establish the Keithley Family Endowed Athletics Scholarship. The new six-figure fund will provide support in the form of an endowed scholarship benefiting student-athletes from either Men’s Baseball, Men’s Basketball or Men’s Golf with a preference for a student-athlete enrolled full-time in the Eberhardt School of Business.
Jerry Keithley was born in Montana in 1916. He grew up during a decade-long drought that caused his family to pack all of their belongings into a roofless car and set out to begin a new life in Southern California.
He received a football scholarship to University of the Pacific and had the privilege of playing under the leadership of head coach Amos Alonzo Stagg who inspired him and instilled many lifelong lessons. In addition to football, Jerry also played baseball, basketball and belonged to the crew team.
While at Pacific he also met the love of his life, Mary Evelyn Wolf. They would later marry and spend 77 years together.
After graduation he began his career as a Vice Principal of Roosevelt Elementary School in Stockton. A few years later, the U.S. joined World War II. Jerry enlisted and went to Naval Training School where he graduated at the top of his class. He was given command of a minesweeper warship and eventually captained a small fleet.
After the war, Jerry returned to Stockton and his work as a continuation school principal, athletics teacher and basketball coach. He was elected to the City Council and eventually became the youngest mayor of a large city in the U.S. Later he became the City Manager of Palo Alto which at that time was still a sleepy college town that covered less than 8 square miles.
He was instrumental in laying the infrastructure for Stanford Industrial Park, which is now known as Silicon Valley. As a result, an entrepreneurial research partnership was established between Stanford University and emerging tech companies in Palo Alto. Out of this partnership grew the research and development of solid-state technology, including microwave electronics, semiconductors and integrated circuits and desktop computers.
In later years he went on to manage the cities of Oakland and Glendale. The keys to his success were his friendly, social personality, combined with his strict work ethic and strong moral and ethical values he learned at Pacific.
Jerry lived every moment to the fullest and was grateful for all of his life experiences. “I have gratitude…” were the words that his daughter Melinda Keithley Murphy said she heard him say often throughout his final years. Those words were always followed by a name and a story about who had helped him along the way. Receiving a Pacific education enabled Jerry to create a better life for himself and his family and in return he has honored Pacific through his incredible generosity.
We are proud and humbled to share his amazing life story and encourage others to think about what their legacy will be.
For more information on ways to include Pacific in your legacy plans, please contact Tim Dickson, Executive Associate Athletic Director for Development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-946-3177.