Going the Extra Mile—for School Sports
by Elizabeth Renfro
Going that extra mile comes naturally—and literally—to CSU, Chico alums Kristina Lohmiller Ernst and Ronald Ernst. When Moreland School District in Campbell faced budget shortfalls that threatened athletic programs, the Ernsts stepped up and created the annual Moreland Mile race and fun run to benefit after-school sports. The event took off, and the second annual race this past May saw 189 runners competing, raising more than $3,000.
“Sports have been a great way for me to find balance in my life,” says Ron, a financial company executive. “I want to make sure that kids have an opportunity to find this balance, too.”
Youth athletics have been part of life in the Ernst family for more than a decade, and both Ron (BS, Business Administration, ’92) and Kristina (BA, Liberal Studies, ’90) have coached their children’s soccer, baseball, and track teams. That family focus carried over into their vision of the Moreland Mile as “not just a moneymaker but a family event, something everybody could get into,” explains Ron. Both years, the Ernsts have been joined by kids Ryan, Kayla, and Tyler (in photo above) in putting on the multi-event race.
According to the Ernsts, their commitment to building and serving community was nurtured during their years at CSU, Chico, when both were active in Greek life, especially the Greek leadership honor society, Order of Omega, and in their organizations’ philanthropic activities. Ron acknowledges that as a Delta Chi pledge, “I didn’t even know what the word ‘philanthropy’ meant.” But he quickly learned and just as quickly “got hooked on volunteerism.”
Especially significant, he says, was serving first as treasurer and later as president of the Interfraternity Council. During 1988–1990, Ron worked with then-University President Robin Wilson to foster positive town-gown links and with Student Activities staff Rick Rees and CC Carter to launch the Campus Alcohol and Drug Education Center (CADEC, now in its 25th year). “These men really pushed to make sure students gave back to the community,” says Ron. “They pushed me to become a better person, and I was forever changed.”
The Ernsts’ Chico Experience has had a major impact on other areas of their lives. Kristina’s volunteer hours in Citrus Elementary School’s classrooms led not only to a teaching career but also to her 2009 Baker Elementary School Volunteer of the Year award. And at Sand Hill Finance, the company Ron cofounded in 2004, five of the seven employees are CSU, Chico alumni—Ron, Mike Henry (BS, Business Administration, ’03), Marty Zankich (BA, Communication Design, ’04), Bill Chronert (BS, Business Administration, ’72), and Dave Foster (BS, Business Administration, ’89).
Hiring Chico alumni has nothing to do with sentiment, emphasizes Ron. The company interviews prospective hires from a range of universities, but “we find applicants from Chico are exceptionally grounded, smart, and ethical, with great work ethics and people skills.”
Kristina adds, “Those values and skills don’t just come from hanging out with friends.” They’re a product, both Ernsts believe, of the emphasis CSU, Chico places on responsible community involvement, “caring about and supporting folks in any community you’re part of.”