Race Tightens for Annual Vanity Giving Contest


Written by: Jackson Conte

“Putting my name on buildings is basically retail therapy,” said Irwin Jacobs.
Photo by Amit Roth

Tense negotiations are underway regarding the naming rights for UC San Diego’s Eighth College. While Irwin Jacobs originally proposed a package deal to name Eighth and Ninth college after his eldest sons, Gary E. Jacobs and Paul E. Jacobs respectively, an alleged disagreement over the eligibility of a bundle discount has opened the door for other wealthy donors. Representatives of the Scripps and Rady families have placed their own bids as well. Naming one or more of UCSD’s undergraduate colleges could all but decide the recipient of this year’s prize — a 40-foot-tall granite obelisk with the winner’s surname carved into it.

“Ever since the business tycoons of the Gilded Age first discovered the concept of image rehabilitation, vanity giving has been a staple of American culture,” Chancellor Khosla remarked. “The spirit of competition benefits us all, and we are most grateful for the selfless altruism of the nation’s elite.”

However, stiff competition over these “indistinguishable blocks of mid-rise buildings” has made some philanthropists turn to alternative places to etch their names. A recent deal to rechristen the
NanoEngineering Department as the “Aiiso Yufeng Li Family Department of Chemical and NanoEngineering” has reset the market floor at $21 million, indicating that the cost of non-trivial naming will likely be much higher.

“We’ve been working at a disadvantage ever since that Jeffrey guy got arrested,” said La Jolla philanthropist Phyllis Epstein in a recent interview. “Do you know how hard it was to get our name on that amphi­theater? We had to hire a publicist just to remind people that we aren’t related to that island guy, not to mention a bevy of lawyers to sue those people for slander and libel. All that work, and no one wants to be in ‘Epstein College.’ This is ridiculous!”

The Epstein family has since redirected its efforts to less conventional opportunities, such as a deal to sponsor the ongoing Genesee Avenue construction project in exchange for renaming the road to “Epstein Boulevard.”

In response to controversy that arose as a result of these name changes, a representative from the Epstein family remarked, “Make all the jokes you want, but if you wanna get to Clairemont, you’ll have to drive on Epstein Boulevard. They’re never gonna build that bridge on Regents
anyway. Unless…”

Other prominent San Diego families have followed suit, with the Prebys and Scripps foundations looking to fund the construction of a state prison and public strip club, respectively. Yet amongst the fierce competition, Irwin Jacobs stressed the importance of remembering the meaning behind it all. “Let’s not forget why we do this every year. We stand on the shoulders of giants: Vanderbilt, Stanford, Carnegie, Rockefeller… all of them obscenely rich,” said Jacobs. “They put their names on theaters, libraries, entire universities — all to remind the common folk that somewhere out there, a robber baron took pity on them. I don’t think any of us will be able to match that legacy, but the best we can do is honor it every year.”

Jacobs was then asked if he would ever consider funding a building anonymously. “Hah! Are you kidding me? What’s the point of giving money to public works if I don’t take credit? If I wanted to do that, I’d go back to paying my taxes.”

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