Taking the Leap

Alumni couple credits UC Davis for instilling life-changing confidence

In 1981, Darryl ’83 and Lois Goss ’88 took a leap many college students wouldn’t dream of: They eloped.

At the time, the 19 and 21 year-old UC Davis students had only been dating seven months. They’d met outside the Memorial Union after being introduced by a mutual friend.

“It was love at first sight for me,” said Darryl, 35 years later, with Lois chuckling beside him and holding onto his arm in anticipation of the punchline.

“But she needed a little convincing.” 

With their “I do’s,” the Gosses demonstrated a shared attitude that began at UC Davis and extended throughout their lives. Time and again, they have shown courage and confidence in the wake of an unfamiliar situation or environment only to prove that, for them, risks and opportunities can be one in the same.

Meetings in Taiwan, then home for a basketball game 

Darryl, who is a member of the UC Davis Foundation Board of Trustees, is now president of Sigma Aldrich Hitech, a division of a chemical and life sciences company specializing in the semiconductor market. In this role, he travels the world, visiting top clients. He has been to six of the seven continents, with his career taking him to Europe, South Africa, Australia, China, Taiwan and more.

“ ... one thing I do when I travel is always wear a UC Davis shirt. I’ve never had a single leg of trip where someone hasn’t told me about their UC Davis connection.”
— Darryl Goss

“For almost five years, I commuted to Scotland for work and lived in Texas,” he said. “With my current role that I took on in 2014, I am probably traveling twice as much as I was then. And one thing I do when I travel is always wear a UC Davis shirt. I’ve never had a single trip where someone hasn’t told me about their UC Davis connection.”

Darryl remains motivated throughout his grueling schedule because he loves having the opportunity to lead different teams around the world.

“I’m proud of the people I work with,” he said. “It’s gratifying when I encourage an admin to go back to school and see them 10 years later doing very well, or when I see someone who was a developer and now they’re a vice president of information technology at another company.”

Despite busy travel schedules, the Gosses raised two sons and, when Lois’ sister passed away from breast cancer, they adopted their two teenage nephews as well. All four kids are now college age or older; but, when they were in school, Lois was an active volunteer. She served as president of the Parent Teacher Association and also participated in their schools’ booster club. 

“Whatever school they were in, they were going to see my face there,” she said, adding that her husband took an active role as well, making certain to arrange his travel to be there for parent teacher nights, band concerts and basketball games.

Helping students STEP up 

At the time the Gosses attended UC Davis, there were very few African American students in the UC system. They both credit UC Davis’ Special Transitional Enrichment Program (STEP) for instilling them with the confidence to embrace challenges, especially those having to do with cultural differences, due to the program’s efforts to increase student success among underrepresented groups.

“In STEP, you met a lot of different people from different cultures that you may not have otherwise come into contact with,” Lois said, who was a first-generation college student known for being the hardest working student in her class. “I met people who had never met a black person before. The only perspective they had was on TV. And they just wanted to know what it was like. So I tried to educate them that every black person I knew was an individual.  I don’t know anybody that is a stereotype. Often times  TV didn’t accurately portray minorities—whether they’re black, Latino, female, etc.”

Darryl, who grew up with a mother who had a Ph.D. during an era when it was rare for a woman to go to college, learned life lessons in both STEP and athletics.

“As an African American, you may find yourself in a situation where others don’t think you should be there,” Darryl said. “So how do you thrive there and be successful? Those are the things that I learned in STEP.  And it was the same thing as a student athlete. Playing football for UC Davis in the early 80s, I learned how to be successful even when people said our team was too small or too slow. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to be part of a great football dynasty with  coaches like Bob Biggs and Jim Sochor.”

Darryl and Lois have created three endowed scholarships to support students in athletics and the African American studies major, as well as other projects and programs. The couple is gearing up to get  more involved in the new Center for African Diaspora Student Success. 

“During my first week in STEP, Student Affairs came and talked to us about the Affirmative Action program and how we needed to  take advantage of this  opportunity,” Darryl said. “They also said it’s not always going to be here, so it was important for us to make the most of it so we could turn around and help someone else. So even our philosophy of giving goes back to what we learned in STEP, and we’re both very grateful for that."