For Jim and Kathy Whistler, two of San Diego’s notable philanthropists, there was never an epiphany.

No lightbulb went off and no life-changing moment impacted their giving.

For the Whistlers, philanthropy came as a natural evolution of their life’s passions and success.

Lifetime Leading to Philanthropy

Their story began back at the University of Idaho where they first met. The two were in the same class together and quickly hit it off.

While philanthropy was not a major part of their families’ upbringing, higher education did instill in them a commitment to the community and civic engagement.

“Our first experience with philanthropy was at the University of Idaho,” recalled Jim. “At school, it was expected that everyone would get involved somehow and give back. Shortly after, in law school, we learned more about charity through various pro bono activities.”

Although these experiences only scratched the surface, it was evident they both had the foundation and passion for something larger than themselves.

After receiving their degrees, the two college sweethearts moved around a lot. As an executive with Northwestern Mutual, Jim’s profession took them everywhere from Milwaukee to San Francisco. And in 1980, that same job, the one he kept for 47 years, brought the couple to San Diego.

Then the moving stopped.

Leaving a Mark in the Region

For the past 27 years, Jim and Kathy have established roots and become philanthropic leaders within the San Diego community.

At the start, they simply experienced all the region had to offer. They attended performances at The Old Globe, listened to KPBS on the ride to work and donated blood to the San Diego Blood Bank.

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Their lives were no different than most San Diegans.

“We just enjoyed performances at The Old Globe but never were patrons,” Jim noted. “After a while, we became season ticket holders, then as our lives evolved we knew we wanted to give back in a larger way. This progression was the same with other organizations too.”

Thanks to hard work, professional success enabled them to play a more significant role in the region’s nonprofit community.

In addition to attending events and exploring different museums and institutions, they were able to give their own money to the same organizations they had visited and experienced for years.

“As we became more philanthropic, we knew we wanted to give money away to places where it would make an impact,” explained Jim. “It was only natural that we support those same organizations that we knew so much about and gave us so much as new residents in San Diego.”

Today, Jim and Kathy give back to a variety of social causes as a result of their diverse interests – from KPBS and local arts institutions to educational programs and the local blood bank, where Jim jokes about whether he has “given more money or gallons of blood.”

Leaving a Legacy

Looking ahead, they hope to play a greater role in the future of San Diego, from helping underserved communities to supporting education and economic growth.

Reflecting on his journey, Jim sums up their hopes by saying, “San Diego has given us so much, and we now want to give back in hopes that our philanthropy will trickle down to other groups and individuals just like us.”

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