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Friday Flashback: Tod Spieker Gives Back to UCLA at Every Turn

As a former swimmer and current major donor, Tod Spieker gives more than just financial support to UCLA.

Tod and Cathy Spieker were honored for the generosity at the Rose Bowl in 2017.

As we move closer to the horizon of football season (yay!), I thought it fitting to profile the man for whom the field at the Rose Bowl was named last year.

As planes were flying overhead calling for the firing of then-head coach Jim Mora, something great was taking place on the field. Tod Spieker, a former UCLA swimmer, had donated $10 million of the $40 million that was being raised to finish improvements on the facility in time for the stadium’s 100th anniversary, which will be in 2022. Spieker’s name now appears on the hedges surrounding the edges of the field. This donation will ensure that the Rose Bowl will be around for decades to come.

But you must be an incredibly special person to have your name surrounding the field where the “Grandaddy of Them All” is played. Who exactly was Tod Spieker, and how did he get where he is today?

Beginning at the age of eight, Spieker began swimming competitively in his hometown of Palo Alto, California. He didn’t win his first race until the age of 12, but there was no stopping him after that. He became an All-American swimmer and was recruited by UCLA. He swam on the varsity team on a full scholarship and was a letter earner all four years. At the same time he was a dedicated athlete, he was also a member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, an organization that, according to his fraternity brother Mike Ryan (who happens to be a friend of mine), he still holds near and dear to his heart.

Many college athletes move on after college. Life takes over and the need to balance life and career often doesn’t leave time for their old passions. But swimming was a part of Spieker and something he didn’t give up until directed by a physician, according to Ryan. He managed to balance his love of swimming with the demands of starting a multi-million dollar real estate company, along with the needs of a family. And he did it all very successfully.

Even before he graduated, Spieker began planning for life after UCLA. He was going to graduate with a degree in geography, but he was also taking classes in real estate at Santa Monica City College. His interest in the field came from his mother who would often visit houses that were for sale in the neighborhood. She was looking at the aesthetics while he became interested in the economics.

He graduated in 1971 and, one year later, earned his real estate license. Fast forward a few years and he would be laid off in 1974 from his first post-graduate job. But, of course, this wouldn’t derail Speiker’s plans. He ended up working for Coldwell Banker until 1981, learning the tricks of the trade and gaining the experience he would need to make it on his own. In 1981 he founded Spieker Companies and bought his first apartment building in Campbell, California. This was the beginning of a long-lasting and extremely successful career in real estate from which he has yet to retire.

But wait...what about swimming? Well, early on in his real estate life he discovered masters swimming. He entered his first adult meet in 1977 and continued competing well into the 2000s. In 1998, he set multiple long-course records and would repeat with five short-course world marks in the 50-54 age group. He was chosen as the 1999 Masters Swimmer of the year and, according to U.S. Masters Swimmers, Spieker says, “Masters swimming sends a great message to the generation coming up. It’s something I believe in very strongly. You can be worth millions, but you’re nothing if you’re not in good physical condition. I’m thankful God gave me the talent to do this”.

Spieker is now a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame, and has continued his support of UCLA Athletics. According to the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate, his presence is evident through his donation to the “Spieker Aquatic Center and the Tod Spieker Colloquium Series in Geography, in addition to the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate and the UCLA Foundation Board of Trustees. Additionally, Spieker is on the Board of Directors of the Housing Industry Foundation and supports various other organizations”.

But there is even more to Spieker than swimming, a successful real estate career, and giving back to UCLA. Ryan also had this to say about Spieker:

“Tod is first and foremost a very good family man with his children, grandchildren, and even his siblings. He is a man of character. He got a lot out of his experience with Beta Theta Pi and still associates with the members. He was extremely competitive in masters swimming right up until 10 or 12 years ago. He takes care of himself, takes care of his family, and puts a lot back in. He really stays tight with us and that’s important.”

It sounds to me like the Spieker name brings integrity and loyalty to the Rose Bowl field. I’d say those are two qualities that any Bruin can appreciate.

Thank you, Tod Spieker, for your continued generosity and loyalty to the four letters.

Go Bruins!