Healing in More Ways Than One by philanthropy

Behzod Tabesh sitting in his van.
Behzod Tabesh ’19 / Photo by Ashley Han

By Ashley Han

Whether it’s helping people lose 30 pounds, cooking healthy meals for his clients, or volunteering at local clinics, Behzod Tabesh ’20 loves to empower people to pursue healthy lifestyles. This year, Tabesh is the first student recipient of the Joseph A. and Jean M. Teresi Memorial Scholarship, endowed by sisters Lisa Harris ’77 and Dina Bosby, which recognizes his efforts to become a physical therapist. 

Tabesh’s interest in health and fitness began when he was 14 years-old after experiencing poor health and being bullied for his weight. He dedicated time and energy to become “the healthiest version of himself,” and his passion for health grew stronger as he grew older.

“I realized that if I didn’t change my life, I was just going to be locked in my room playing video games,” Tabesh said. “By empowering myself, it allowed me to have a life outside of school and set my goal in stone to become a personal trainer, and now a physical therapist.

Tabesh became a certified personal trainer at 18 years-old and started working full time; however, he felt the job was like selling a product rather than helping people, so he dropped out of community college for a year to opened his own home gym business that provided a unique and customizable experience for his clients, which ultimately led him to UC Davis. 

“I had to drop out of community college again for a quarter because I was hit by a car while riding my bike and broke my hip,” Tabesh said. “My clients used to tell me that I should be physical therapist, but breaking my hip sealed the deal because it really put me in the shoes of a patient. Prior to the accident, I was not an academic person at all, but going through the recovery process motivated me to find the best school in the area and study clinical nutrition.”   

Unexpected connections

At UC Davis, Tabesh said he maintains a balanced lifestyle by joining the UC Davis Triathlon team, working at a chemistry lab and volunteering at Imani Clinic and Kaiser Foundation Rehabilitation Center in Sacramento. He also interns at Physical Edge, a local physical therapy and fitness provider, and says the scholarship has made his busy life easier.

“I was very thrilled to hear somebody that had so many interests near and dear to my heart received the scholarship,” donor Harris said. “He’s from San Jose and went to a school that my high school played football games against; there are just so many connections.” The sisters grew up in Saratoga, California. 

Harris, a dietitian and personal trainer based in Temecula, teamed up with and her sister,
Bosby, to donate money inherited from their late mother. They set up a scholarship endowment that will alternate between awarding a student studying nutrition and students interested in teaching K-8 students. Dina is an elementary teacher in the Roseville area. They named the scholarship in honor of their parents and plan on meeting the recipients every year.

“It was so great meeting Bez,” Bosby said. “It’s nice to be aware of where our money is going and how it’s helping the students. I went back to school when I was 40 to get my teaching credential and put my two boys through college too. It’s expensive, and every dollar can help.”

After meeting Tabesh, Harris said she felt a great connection to him and his story and the sisters still stay in contact with Tabesh. 

“The scholarship allowed me to live my life and live out my passions,” Tabesh said. “Hopefully when I’m in a position later on in my life, I could do the same for someone else.”

Learn more about the impacts of philanthropy on UC Davis students.