Lucas Ransom Scholarship Created After Tragic Accident


Simone Spilka
Staff Writer

The Lucas Ransom Memorial Scholarship fund was established in October, 2010 at the University of California, Santa Barbara to commemorate the 19-year-old Chemical Engineering major who lost his life in a shark attack at Surf Beach in Northern Santa Barbara County.

Ransom’s parents contacted the University shortly after the accident to visit and discuss their idea for a scholarship that would help economically underprivileged students in the Chemical Sciences department.

Ransom’s major was a vital aspect of his daily life.

“Luke would bring up something pertinent to his chemistry studies almost every day,” said Cole Symanski, a third-year Biology major and former housemate to Ransom. “He would even try to explain events in our life via chemistry analogies, such as trends in the arrangement of orbitals—twisting his hands about and animating his body as he did so. Being a dedicated Chemistry student was an integral part of his self-image and who he’d describe himself as. He was very proud of it.”

Chris Pizzinat, Deputy Director at the UCSB Office of Development, has been working directly with the family to cultivate the plan into action.
“His mother came to campus very shortly afterward to visit and talk, and interestingly, I think the attack happened on a Friday morning and the family was on the Today Show the following Monday,” he said. It was on this Today Show that the Ransoms announced their decision to set up a fund in Lucas’s name. They talked about Lucas’s hopes and dreams for the future and their desire to allow other students at UCSB to acheive their dreams because Lucas cannot, and it is what he would have wanted.

The story generated an overwhelmingly positive response following the television appearance. Pizzinat and Ransom’s mother, Candace, spoke about different funding options and further details of the scholarship before setting up an online giving page.
“Given the national coverage the story was getting it provided people an outlet for support,” said Pizzinat.

People have acknowledged this outlet because so far $7,000 has already been donated to through the website.

“[The family] was instrumental in establishing the fund because without them these other donors wouldn’t have been able to be supportive at all,” Pizzinat added.

But the conditions for selecting scholarship recipients have yet to be decided.

“This is the detail that needs to be worked out. We’ve only had preliminary discussions,” Pizzinat said while highlighting the importance of first and foremost giving the family space to cope with the loss. “They first wanted to get a sense of what they wanted to do. None of this is formalized yet until we sit down with them and map out the criteria.”

The scholarship will ultimately benefit students in the Chemical Engineering and Chemistry departments because Lucas was in the process of switching majors.

“I think his family is feeling that Lucas had a loyalty to both,” Pizzinat said.

Friends also feel the scholarship should express his passion for the whole Santa Barbara community, in addition to his passion for school.

“It’s important to note that he was a happy guy not just because he was a Chemistry major, but because he got to do it at UCSB where the wind and water and chill people give a Chemistry student a perspective on life and happiness,” said Symanski. “Luke’s love for the water and the beach here were akin to his love for chemistry. UCSB pride should be a selling point for the scholarship too, even if it seems very obvious.”

For more information on how to donate please visit or contact Chris Pizzinat at 805-893-5126 or