Picking a college to attend is one of the biggest decisions in a young person’s life. There are many factors to consider — the immediate ones as well as the long-term effects. Yet, for some, the decision, even when it’s made rather quickly, just feels right.
Heather Manly made her decision quickly in 1999 to come to the University of San Diego and she left with two degrees, two teaching credentials and fond memories through faith, friendships and student leadership roles in campus organizations. Her connection remains strong today as a USD Alumni Association board member, including her role as committee chairperson for this Sunday’s fourth annual USD Wine Classic.
“It wasn’t my first choice to come to USD, but, when I came here on a college tour offered through my high school, everything changed,” she recalled earlier this week while at Hahn University Center’s patio terrace. “I just fell in love with USD. It was the right fit, the right-sized school. I felt connected to USD the very first day I stepped on campus. It’s kind of ironic doing this interview here because this is where I had my first meal.”
Manly’s reflection and her education results — a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies and multiple-subject teaching credential (2002) and master’s and credential in special education (‘05) from SOLES — indicate she made a solid personal choice. Involvement in alumni committees focused on outreach and philanthropy experience as well as a past Homecoming chairperson strengthen Manly’s dedication to her initial decision.
“If you commit yourself to something, I’m a firm believer that you need to follow through and do the best you can,” she said.
Her commitment to the USD Wine Classic, which is held at USD’s stunning Garden of the Sea behind the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, showcases the Hermosa Beach, Calif., native’s feelings about USD, its students and more.
“It’s more than just an event,” Manly said. “This is also for a good cause, to raise money for student scholarships. The Wine Classic brings together alumni, staff, faculty and the community. We received feedback that some people felt they hadn’t had a reason or a calling to come to campus. We definitely want to broadcast this event to people living throughout the San Diego region.”
It was founded in 2009 after Kevin Dooley ’93 brought the idea to fellow alumni board members. It’s helped raise scholarship funds for USD students, nearly 70 percent of who receive some type of financial aid. Including this year, the Wine Classic has contributed more than $150,000 toward the Alumni Association’s initial goal of $1 million for the Alumni Endowed Scholarship Fund.
“We want people to know that their good time is going toward scholarships that support our students,” Manly said. “I love reading the students’ scholarship applications. You realize that our students are awesome and see why we get the students we do. They’re people from all different backgrounds and the scholarships help undergraduate and graduate students.”
Manly’s leadership and her work with USD staff and other volunteers doesn’t go unnoticed.
“We’re extremely grateful for dedicated volunteers like Heather,” said Charles Bass, USD alumni relations director. “Her enthusiasm for USD knows no limits. She’s committed to making the Wine Classic a true success — from helping raise as much money as possible for student scholarships to making sure our winery partners and attendees enjoy a first-class experience.”
This year’s event, from 2 to 5 p.m., is expected to draw more than 700 people.
The number of wineries involved, many alumni- or USD-parent owned, is now at 30. The wineries represented are from California’s Napa Valley, Paso Robles/Central Coast and Temecula areas as well as a few in Mexico. USD-connected servers — often the winemakers or owners themselves — will pour their product in a wine glass that attendees get to keep.
There are wine-related items and experiences available through silent auction and, new this year, is a limited-edition bottle of wine for purchase with a uniquely designed, commemorative label. An pre-Wine Classic event — and separately ticketed — takes place from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. This year’s event is “Road to Robles” with Peachy Canyon Winery vintner Doug Beckett ’75 (MEd) discussing the art of blind wine tasting.
Put it all together — wines, tempting USD-catered food pairings, picturesque views from IPJ, San Diego’s weather and benefitting current Toreros — and the Wine Classic has become a must-attend experience.
“This university is full of traditions and I think the Wine Classic is a new one that will continue and, eventually, will be an old tradition,” Manly said. “It’s one that I think our young alumni, faculty, staff and the San Diego community can all share and enjoy together.”
— Ryan T. Blystone