Tom Bagamane '83
Currently: Founder/CEO, The Giving Spirit
Degree: Journalism and political science
Class year: 1983
On Ut Prosim: Bagamane said his life-changing moment came in 1991, when he was driving home from work in downtown Washington, D.C. On a cold December evening, he saw people sleeping on the steam grates outside newly built office buildings on 15th Street.
“That’s when homelessness really hit me between the eyes,” Bagamane said. “I got furious. I had to act.”
That winter, Bagamane enlisted his sister (Kalpana Bagamane ’86) as a volunteer, borrowed their dad’s Buick station wagon, and went to an Army surplus store to buy blankets and a local grocery store to buy provisions. Then, after midnight at the coldest time of the year, they returned to downtown D.C. to drop these life-sustaining necessities at the feet of their sleeping homeless neighbors.
Bagamane eventually left D.C. for Los Angeles to pursue business opportunities but took that servant mindset with him. In 1999, he founded The Giving Spirit, a nonprofit whose two-part mission is to provide survival assistance to individuals experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles and to produce truth-based educational programming around poverty. The Giving Spirit has served more than 88,000 individuals, with the help of 22,000 volunteers, while educating thousands more.
“In 1999, I was at a gathering in Santa Monica and put out a challenge: ‘Homelessness has reached epidemic status in L.A. This is what we did in D.C. Our city needs you.’ Three people raised their hands and became our first volunteers,” Bagamane said. “We didn't have a name but had a purpose that resonates even higher today.”
On how Virginia Tech impacted him: “In Ut Prosim, Tech embedded in me the platform to be an activist for good and to take ideas to action. Ut Prosim, for me, is not an aspiration. It is a clarion call to action. It's an accelerator. … Our legacy as Hokies should be measured not on the material value that we have created or possess, but on the impact our learning and success has on underserved lives in positive and sustainable ways.”
On the importance of service for Virginia Tech’s future: “We give students the opportunity and the access to benefit from an exceptional education. The advancements we're creating will economically benefit our society in substantial ways, giving us a chance to extend our lives, enhance the quality of our lives, to be more productive, to be healthier and happier and fulfilled. … We, as Hokies, should combine those exceptional skills with our DNA of service to design pathways and processes to lift the underserved and provide them opportunities for a better life — lives of hope and the aspiration of advancement. Will that not benefit all levels of our society?”