Alum Gene Pendergast honored with Soderquist Award

By Stella Chung | June 4, 2024

On May 2, the UC Davis Foundation presented Gene Pendergast ’61 with the 2024 Charles J. Soderquist Award at a luncheon in his honor — an accolade fitting for someone who once served side-by-side on the board with Soderquist himself.

Named in honor of Charles J. Soderquist, a well-loved UC Davis alum and entrepreneur, the award celebrates Aggies who embody Soderquist’s commitment to the development of the university. The foundation presents the award to individuals to recognize outstanding philanthropy, volunteerism and leadership within the UC Davis community.

Pendergast, a retired estate attorney, has been a dedicated supporter of UC Davis since graduating with a B.A. in political science. As an alum, he has volunteered many hours as a past president and member of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, or CAAA, Board, former alumni representative to the UC Regents, and past chair and trustee of the UC Davis Foundation.

After graduating from UC Davis, Pendergast continued his education at UC Berkeley, where he earned his law degree in 1964. 

He embarked on a successful legal career, providing legal services in estate planning and real estate practices. For more than 50 years, he practiced in probate court in Sacramento County and the surrounding areas as a partner at Schei, Pendergast & Collins, and as counsel to Wilke Fleury.

“Gene and his wife, Julie, have supported units across UC Davis and UC Davis Health through philanthropy for over 50 years,” said J.R. Springer, director of development at UC Davis Health. In addition to supporting the Center for Advancing Pain Relief, the couple has given to CAAA scholarships, the UC Davis Annual Fund and the arts.

Pendergast said he was “surprised and flattered”  when he heard he’d been nominated, and “even more so” upon  learning that the foundation selected him for this year’s honor. 

Volunteering to advance pain relief

In 1999, the UC Davis School of Medicine recruited Scott Fishman with a mission to build a successful, world-class pain medicine program. Fishman knew that the project would require extensive community support and prioritized forming a community advisory board, of which Pendergast became an original member. 

“In his more than two decades on our board, Gene has fully embraced our mission and worked to educate himself in our work and spread his enthusiastic support of UCDH and pain medicine in every imaginable direction,” Fishman wrote in his nomination letter. “There is simply not more that I could have asked of him.”

Pendergast continues to show his commitment as a member, board chair, advocate and friend to the UC Davis Center for Advancing Pain Relief and the Division of Pain Medicine, advocating for the program through his network of community leaders, friends and colleagues.  

“Gene has always been first in line when it came time to develop a new program or initiative and offer the resources needed to advance a new project,” Fishman wrote. 

Pendergast's unwavering support has contributed to the program's mission to provide compassionate, cutting-edge treatment of chronic pain in the greater Sacramento area.

He now remains the “only active member remaining from our original board — showing no signs of leaving any time soon,” Fishman added.

An Aggie for life

Pendergast holds many fond memories of UC Davis from his years of involvement. At the luncheon, he reminisced on how much the campus has transformed over the decades. 

“I used to know where everything was around here,” he said, gesturing toward Vanderhoef Quad and the Walter A. Buehler Alumni Center. “I used to give people tours, and this was all fields.” 

Pendergast added that with each passing year, he eagerly anticipates witnessing the ongoing transformation of UC Davis, hoping that his service and dedication as an Aggie will remain impactful for the future to come.