At first glance, David Del Monte may not seem like the type of person who would care deeply about diversity. Although starting his schooling at Santa Rosa Junior College in the 1960s, the successful real estate broker, investor, Republican and longtime Rotarian hasn’t always moved in the most diverse circles.
Yet ever since he was exposed to a Communist speaker while still an SRJC student, he has been a staunch supporter of opening people’s minds by providing them with opinions far different than their own.
To make that happen in Santa Rosa, in 2000 he donated $10,000 to establish an endowment through the SRJC Foundation that funds an annual diversity-focused event called the Dede & David Del Monte Lecture attended by about 200 students, faculty and staff. He later funded an irrevocable trust with real estate and equity holdings valued at $685,000.
“We are isolated. We live our lives in little boxes,” Del Monte said, explaining the gifts. “I personally believe that everybody is good, with few exceptions, and the more you get to know someone, the more tolerant you are. The idea is getting to know people.”
One of the most impactful lectures in his series was a talk in 2005 by Daryl Davis, an accomplished African-American keyboard player who has long worked to befriend members of the Ku Klux Klan.
The subject of the 2016 documentary, “Accidental Courtesy,” Davis delivered a lecture that was provocative, almost incendiary to some audience members who found it hard to understand how he could reach out to those who promulgate hate. Del Monte considers Davis exactly the type of speaker he had hoped to attract when he funded the lectureship.
“Because of his experience, this particular speaker was very interesting and inspiring, humorous and very touching,” he said.
When choosing the target for his donation, Del Monte said he had considered endowing a scholarship but instead chose the lecture series to make a “broader impact.”
“Instead of somebody getting a few hundred dollars, 200 students could listen to a topic,” he said. “That’s why the lectureship appealed to me.”
The kind of support exhibited by David and Dede Del Monte is “invaluable,” said Breanne Beseda, communications director for the SRJC Foundation.
“They truly appreciate the importance of education and understand the impact of SRJC on individuals, families and the entire community,” she said.
Many of the students and community members who participate in these events say they have had “an incredible impact on their awareness, perspective and personal and professional plans,” Beseda added.
Del Monte, 74, moved to New York City in 2000 but attends the free lectures if he’s in the area. He enrolled at SRJC in 1961 and says it was there that he gained a sense of social awareness.
He returned in 1996 as an adjunct real estate instructor and to serve on the SRJC Foundation Board of Directors. He also has served as president of the Sonoma County Realtors Association.
Del Monte’s charitable work goes beyond SRJC. He’s an honorary citizen of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador and was governor of the Rotary district covering Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and Westchester County in New York. He also has been active in Rotary’s Polio Plus campaign, which has raised more than $1 billion to combat the disease and helped bring worldwide polio cases down to fewer than 100 per year today, he said.