The lunch at Lemon Grass started as a tense meeting between two Sacramento power brokers, but it ended with a friendship that, decades later, would secure the largest gift in the history of the University of the Pacific.
Developer Robert Powell was hunting for bear 25 years ago when he asked to meet with the Dr. Yee who had snatched away the sponsorship of KVIE’s “Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser.” Herbert Yee was a dentist; his brother Franklin, a surgeon.
He threw out the opening gambit, “‘Now, Mr. Powell, you are mad at one of the Dr. Yees.’ My brother’s a surgeon, and I’m a dentist. I said, ‘It can’t be me you’re mad with. It must be him.’ He said, ‘No, I’m mad at the one that is the chairman of Sacramento Valley Bank.’ Well, I was chairman of that bank.”
As it turned out, Powell was chairing the board of the Alex Brown Bank at the same time, and he had wanted to sponsor the Rukeyser program to get publicity for his bank. But Sacramento Valley Bank had walked away with it.
Yee said he hadn’t known that Alex Brown Bank was interested. He apologized. They had a friendly conversation, shook hands and parted friends.
Yee later learned from KVIE staff that Powell had donated $200,000 to the public broadcasting station shortly after their lunch, and he felt that here was the kind of man he’d like to see as a UOP regent. Yee had been a regent since 1972, and it just so happened that he was chair of the nominating committee. He put Powell on the list.
“When we proposed him to be a board member, there was another regent, a developer named Ed Westgate who knew him longer than me,” Yee said. “Ed developed Silverado (Resort), and with them both being developers, I think he proposed the nomination and I seconded the nomination and everybody approved it.”
UOP was Yee’s alma mater, not Powell’s. The developer didn’t finish high school. So why would he donate $125 million to the college? Yee’s guess is that Powell, who died six years ago, felt respected and embraced by the university. Upon Powell’s request, his fellow regents nominated and accepted his wife to their board when his business interests would no longer allow him to serve. And, UOP had awarded Powell an honorary doctorate.
“He was thrilled to be asked to be a regent because here’s a person that never even went to college practically,” Yee said. “He might have taken some night classes or something at a junior college, San Mateo or somewhere. And now he’s on the board of regents.”
A win for Casa Garden
The nonprofit Casa Garden Restaurant will receive a $50,000 marketing makeover, thanks to more than 5,000 votes from its supporters in an online contest created by a dozen regional firms. Casa Garden board member Margot Bach sees the makeover as an opportunity to raise the organization’s profile with a younger generation of potential volunteers, donors and clients. “We are really woefully behind the times,” Bach said. “We need to have social media to reach out to new clients. What we’re hoping to focus on is attracting new clients and expanding our social media.” Casa Garden, located at 2760 Sutterville Road, donates all proceeds from its restaurant and banquet facilities to the Sacramento Children’s Home, an agency working to break the cycle of child abuse. Bach and other volunteers received news of the contest victory as they are preparing the restaurant for a holiday shopping bazaar. Pay $25 for wine, hors d’oeuvres and early shopping Friday evening or shop on Saturday for free.