Alumni couple to receive 2024 UC Davis Medal, university’s highest honor

Recipients ‘give from the heart’ to support students

By Courtney Tompkins | February 27, 2024

The 2024 UC Davis Medal will be awarded to philanthropists Lois and Darryl Goss, who fell in love and eloped while students and have spent their lives giving back to the university.

“Lois and Darryl have been so generous with their time, resources and commitment to providing meaningful learning experiences to students of all backgrounds,” said Chancellor Gary S. May. “Their profound contributions to the university have had a tremendous impact on generations of our Aggie family.”

Gold UC Davis Medal on a wooden grain surface.
The UC Davis Medal

The Gosses are the 28ᵗʰ recipients of the medal, the university’s highest honor, putting them in company with 2020 Nobel Laureate Charles Rice, former President Bill Clinton, artist Wayne Thiebaud, and fellow philanthropists Maria Manetti Shrem and Robert and Margrit Mondavi.

“We are so humbled to receive this award — it means everything to us,” said Darryl Goss ’83.

“We attribute so much of our success to our experiences at Davis,” he continued. “It was here that we learned about leadership and overcoming adversity, and being able to learn together unified us and allowed us to become the ride-or-die partners we needed to be.”

Sparks fly at Davis

When the two were introduced in January 1981, they felt an instant connection. Darryl Goss was a star football player majoring in Afro-American Studies (as the department was then named). And Lois Goss ’85 was a basketball player studying sociology.

That summer, the pair hopped on a Greyhound bus to Reno to exchange wedding vows — a secret they kept for the next three years. The Aggie sweethearts, who now reside in Indianapolis, will celebrate 43 years of marriage this August.

“It’s hard to believe,” Lois Goss said. “It seems like it was just yesterday. Every time I go back to Davis, I am so nostalgic. Something rises up in me and I am overwhelmed.”

Lois Goss, the first in her family to attend college, runs a small business and holds many volunteer leadership roles at UC Davis. Darryl Goss, the second in his family to attend college, earned an MBA from the University of Chicago and attended Oxford University’s Advanced Management Program. Today, he is an acquisition and investment consultant for companies in the health care and technology industries.

Lois wearing a black turtleneck leans against Darryl wearing glasses and a dark shirt with floral print.
Lois and Darryl Goss met and married while undergraduates at UC Davis. (Courtesy)

Dedicated to helping students

Reflecting on the encouragement and network of support they received as students, the Gosses said they felt compelled to give back to the place where it all began. They have generously contributed to many areas across UC Davis — from the School of Veterinary Medicine and the Bodega Bay Marine Laboratory to Athletics and the School of Education.

“We give from the heart,” Darryl Goss said, “but a lot of our giving is centered around student success and supporting the faculty and administrators who are working to change students’ lives.”

Their gifts are often given in honor of someone who inspired or encouraged them along the way. In 2021, the pair established the Austin and Arutha Goss Presidential Chair in African American and African Studies, named after Darryl Goss’ parents, whom he and his wife credit with teaching them the value of education and lifelong learning.

Funded by a $1.5 million gift from the Gosses plus $500,000 from the UC Presidential Match for Endowed Chairs, the chair was created to provide sustained support for teaching, research and outreach about the history and culture of communities of African descent around the world. It was the university’s first endowed chair in the Department of African American and African Studies.

Estella Atekwana, dean of the College of Letters and Science, said the Gosses are “inspired altruists” who are true champions for UC Davis.

“Darryl and Lois take such an active role in strengthening so much of what we do at UC Davis, and this includes expanding our five-decade tradition of excellence in our interdisciplinary programs while launching a new era of leadership in African American and African studies,” Atekwana said. “Their incredible achievements and drive to give back are shining examples of the leadership we seek to inspire throughout our UC Davis community.”

The couple previously established the Goss Family Endowment to support undergraduate students majoring in the humanities, arts and cultural studies, and the Gary Perkins Academic Achievement Student Award in African American and African Studies Programs, in honor of Perkins’ exemplary work in counseling students toward academic success at UC Davis.

The Gosses have also funded undergraduate scholarships for student-athletes with the Joe Singleton Athletic Scholarship, named for the beloved coach and athletics director, and rallied family and friends to support the Eugene D. Stevenson Sr. Endowment Fund, in memory of the campus's first Black assistant vice chancellor, as well as the Leslie A. Campbell Fund for Student Achievement, which honors Campbell’s lifelong efforts to provide educational opportunities for those in underserved communities.

“Some of our most heartwarming experiences have been meeting students who received our scholarships,” Lois Goss said. “Many of them say, ‘When I make it, I’m going to come back and support students just like you guys.’”

Staying connected to campus

As two of UC Davis’ most involved alumni, the Gosses have long been dedicated to helping students in support of the university’s mission to make the world a better place.

The pair enjoys staying connected to the campus community and are known to actively recruit alumni to reconnect with their alma mater, knowing others will feel inspired to give some love back to the university. In 2019, they earned the Cal Aggie Alumni Association’s Aggie Service Award in recognition of this commitment.

“When you see that some of the students are struggling with the same things we struggled with, you have to do something to help, even if it’s in a small way,” Lois Goss said. “It’s important for us to take advantage of the opportunities we had at Davis and come back to help others.”

Lois Goss serves on the College of Letters and Science Dean’s Advisory Council and the Women & Philanthropy Advisory Council; she is also a cabinet member of the Davis Chancellor’s Club, the oldest donor recognition society at UC Davis.

Darryl Goss is past president of the UC Davis Foundation board and former chair of the College of Letters and Science Dean’s Advisory Council. Today, he serves on the Athletics Board and the Chancellor’s Board of Advisors, and he and Lois are both trustees on the UC Davis Foundation board.

May will present the UC Davis Medal to the Gosses in the spring.