For over 50 years, Mr. Towbes was a pillar of the Santa Barbara community, both in business and philanthropy. He was the founder and chairman of the board of The Towbes Group, a construction and property management company, and Montecito Bancorp, which owns Montecito Bank & Trust. He served on many local boards, including a 27-year tenure with Cottage Hospital, and was named Santa Barbara’s Man of the Year in 1994 and Donor of the Year in 2010.
Mr. Towbes’ commitment to higher education and long-standing support of the Scholarship Foundation were unparalleled. In 1962, Mr. Towbes joined the Scholarship Foundation’s first board of directors and in the first three years of his tenure, along with the Scholarship Foundation’s first executive director Carolyn Ferguson, he interviewed over 100 local students. “Michael Towbes was a true pioneer, in business, philanthropy and life,” said Barrett O’Gorman, Scholarship Foundation Board Chair. “He helped shape the early work of the Scholarship Foundation and made sure we kept students’ interest at the forefront of everything we do.”
Mr. Towbes remained on the Scholarship Foundation’s Honorary Board throughout his life and, through the Towbes Foundation Honors Scholarship, supports academically high-performing students throughout their undergraduate education. To date, 31 students have received this prestigious scholarship. In an interview last year, Mr. Towbes explained why he sought to establish one of the Scholarship Foundation’s first multi-year scholarships. “It’s important that students don’t feel limited by finances and have a scholarship they can rely on throughout their college career.” He went on to share, “the world has changed over the years, but a good education is something that remains with you your entire life, and a good education keeps getting more and more expensive.”
His commitment to students went beyond financial support. Mr. Towbes spent time with his scholarship recipients and often provided guidance and mentoring for many years after they finished college. “Michael Towbes was a once-in-a-lifetime community leader,” explained Candace Winkler, president and CEO of the Scholarship Foundation. “It is remarkable that a man with so many competing priorities made himself readily available to young people. I want to thank his family for sharing him with the entire Santa Barbara community. His legacy will surely endure through the lives he touched for many generations to come.”