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All Hands on Deck Donor Profile: Nancy Tietge

Semester at Sea Inspires Global Thinking and a Philanthropic View

When a close friend shared her son’s experiences from his Semester at Sea voyage – and the incredible bond he formed with many of the adult passengers known as Lifelong Learners – Nancy Tietge’s interest in the program was piqued.

She quickly began to check off other positives about this possible adventure. Raised in Newport Beach, California, Tietge loved the ocean. “I also love being around energetic, enthusiastic college students and being intellectually challenged. And spending five or six days rather than an hour in each port? This was the perfect fit.”

Tietge’s maiden voyage in fall 2010 was followed by an Enrichment Voyage in 2013 and a partial voyage in summer 2014, and her passion for the program blossomed. “I walked off the ship smiling and feeling fulfilled.” But then reality struck. “I went from being completely engaged to coming home to an empty house. That was difficult.”


So Tietge became involved with Semester at Sea in another way by joining the Lifelong Learning Council, which she co-chaired until January 2019. She stepped aside from that role to join the Spring 2019 Voyage. Again, she found rewards. “I spent more time the first week of the voyage with professors than I had during four years at college. I took their classes, ate meals with them, and learned about their areas of expertise. It made me realize that there is more to education than simply books and lectures.”

 Through these classes, perspectives are changed, she says. “My Semester at Sea experiences changed my thinking and outlook. You visit different countries not as a tourist but as a traveler. You truly get to experience the culture and the people, whether through service projects or a homestay. You also appreciate how privileged our country is, and it changes your attitude.”

Semester at Sea is a means of offering students and adult voyagers from all walks of life a chance to grow and expand their views, she says. “It’s a transformational global experience which, now more than ever, is important and necessary.”

Other voyage experiences influenced Tietge’s life, reigniting her philanthropic passion. In 2010, Archbishop Desmond Tutu sailed for the entire voyage. She and the Archbishop participated in a panel on aging for a class. “We were to share what we learned as we aged. He shared his realization about post-apartheid South Africa, saying that it’s easy to tear things apart and far more challenging to build up something better in its place. That stayed with me. He was a calming, comforting presence for all of us.”

Tietge’s desire to give back to Semester at Sea grew. “I have a family who believes in scholarships and giving back,” she says. So when Tietge returned to California, she created the Desmond Tutu “Ubuntu” Endowed Scholarship Fund to honor the Archbishop and to bring students from the continent of Africa on a Semester at Sea voyage. “The term Ubuntu is an African Zulu word, meaning roughly, ‘I am because you are.’ The Archbishop taught that concept on the voyage, and it resonates for me and reminds me of the global interconnectedness of all of us.”

Tietge established the fund with a lead gift and has since inspired more than 230 other donors to contribute to this endowed scholarship. She also encourages Semester at Sea alumni to support the “Ubuntu” Fund (she provides a generous match on the Archbishop’s birthday each year) or another fund for which they’re passionate. “It’s worth getting involved with programs and charities that are important to you,” she says. “You don’t have to give a lot to make a significant difference in the lives of others.”

Tietge offers a suggestion for newly disembarked alumni. “If you can give $25 a year, and if each of your fellow voyagers did the same, it could open the door for other students to have the opportunity to sail.”

Learn more about the All Hands on Deck Capital Campaign

  • Alumni

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