Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, Campaign for UC Santa Barbara Co-chair, recently became the 50th person to be granted UCSB honorary alumna status since the university’s induction into the UC system in 1944.

Lady Ridley-Tree is a prominent Montecito philanthropist who has supported UCSB as well as the surrounding Santa Barbara community for many years. She and husband Lord Paul Ridley-Tree have been awarded the Philanthropist of the Year Award from the National Society of Fund Raising Executives as well as the Santa Barbara News-Press Lifetime Achievement Award.

According to Lady Ridley-Tree, her generous contributions to the university stemmed from a perceived need and necessity.

“I thank you, university. I thank you all. I thank life for the privilege that I’ve had to be able to give,” Ridley-Tree said in a press release. “For me to have this degree, at this point in my life, is so overwhelming, you cannot imagine. Everything I’ve done in life has been because a door has opened, and there seemed to have been a need, and I walked through it. How blessed I feel, how joyous I feel.”

Chancellor Yang said Ridley-Tree’s dedication to giving embodies the spirit of Santa Barbara while setting an example of exemplary citizenship.

“Your vision, your leadership in philanthropy, your leadership in everything, as well as your passion for the arts, and for life, make you one of the most respected citizens of our community,” Yang said in a press release. “Tonight, we would not dare to think that we are honoring you. You, by accepting this honorary degree, by agreeing to be an honorary alumna –– we feel that you have honored us. The university is being honored tonight.”

UCSB Doctoral Candidate Brigit Ferguson, who suffers from dyslexia, said Lady Ridley-Tree’s scholarship endowment allowed her to escape the entrapments that society places on those with learning disabilities.

“While many people seem to think that a learning disability means I should seek a non-academic career, Lady Leslie has recognized that there are those of us with learning disabilities who thrive despite –– and, perhaps, even partly because of –– them,” Ferguson said in a press release. “While Lady Leslie’s financial support has allowed me to carry out essential research that I might not otherwise have been able to, it is so much more meaningful to me because she has recognized those of us who have to work a little harder to succeed.”