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Giving Back

Tanya Pine Capuano’s special commitment to education and the GSE

Tanya Capuano
Tanya Pine Capuano

Some 25 years ago Tanya Pine Capuano would ride her bicycle to the construction site of the new Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, where her father, a plumber, was installing pipes in the building. He would proudly introduce her to his co-workers, telling them that his daughter was earning a Stanford degree. He was a firm believer in the importance of higher educat∂ion, though neither he nor her mother had attended college. “You’re going to go to a school like Stanford someday,” he would tell Tanya again and again as she grew up.

Going to Stanford was certainly not a common path for kids in Tanya’s neighborhood in San Jose, Calif.: Of the five children from her block in the same kindergarten class, she was the only one to graduate from high school. But she fulfilled her father’s prediction; she earned not only a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Stanford, but also a Master’s in Education and a Master’s in Business Administration.

“Stanford changed my life, and exposed me to new ideas, people, ways of thinking and career avenues that I didn’t know existed,” says Tanya (AB ’93, AM ’99 Education, MBA ’99).

Her commitment to education began in childhood, blossomed at Stanford and continues in her life today. It will also carry forward, thanks to her thoughtful plans for the future, which include a bequest to the Graduate School of Education.

Tanya’s path to becoming a GSE alumna was an indirect one. As an undergraduate, she was pre-med, but she grew more aware of the value of education. To help pay for college, she taught an SAT preparation class and realized that students’ performance on standardized tests had more to do with their having the opportunity to take a test prep class than their intelligence. She knew that many of the students at her former high school could not afford such help. Determined to make a difference, Tanya partnered with a high school classmate and taught a free SAT course at her old school.

QuoteAfter graduating, Tanya worked as a healthcare management consultant, to learn the business side of medicine and to earn enough to manage her student debt.  She fell in love with business and decided to enter Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. 

Once there, Tanya heard about the opportunity to take education classes at the GSE and signed up for those as well.  She found the GSE classes to be “holistic” and “humbling,” and for her, they raised compelling questions about education policy, the achievement gap and the education of girls. She noticed how GSE graduates, equipped with the necessary understanding and skills, were making direct impacts in the field.

Tanya soon joined the joint Master’s in Education/Master’s in Business Administration degree program. She wanted to stay close to education in her life, whether or not she made education her primary career. Just before she graduated, she wrote a grant proposal to launch San Francisco’s affiliate of the “I Have a Dream” Foundation, which mentors children in low-income communities throughout their school career and guarantees college tuition support. She went on to serve on the group’s board of directors, and over the past 15 years has witnessed how the group’s work has transformed the lives not only of the students but also of their families. The young girl Tanya began to mentor in IHAD’s first cohort of second-graders is on track to earn an undergraduate degree from Sonoma State University next year. 

Capuano family
Tanya, her husband Michael and their two children

Tanya’s business career has thrived since she graduated as well. Over the years, she has held challenging positions in education and high tech — including work building support at Stanford for K-12 education — and today she is a finance director for Intuit Inc. “I’ve been able to leverage my Stanford degrees across education and business to delve into professional opportunities that span both,” she says. “I’ve also been able to have impact in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors.”

Tanya lives in the Bay Area with husband Mike, their two children and their dog, and she remains plugged in to the university. She cherishes the opportunities she had and the friends she made at Stanford, which continues to foster a welcoming community for her, her family and her friends, and enables her to keep learning, connecting, growing and giving back.

To honor the power of education and Stanford to transform lives, Tanya and Mike have made a bequest to the Stanford Graduate School of Education in their estate plans. “Education is a life-changer,” she says. “I don’t know if people understand the direct impact that the GSE is making — in policy, in classrooms and in research — and the ways the school is changing lives. I want to support that.”

Deborah Stipek, the I. James Quillen Dean of the GSE, reflects: “It is such an honor for the GSE to receive a bequest intention. It is one of the best votes of confidence in our work that we can be given.  We are deeply grateful, and I am personally touched by Tanya and Mike’s generosity.”

This bequest intention is just one way that Tanya plans to carry on her support for the GSE.  “We all have a responsibility to give back,” Tanya says. “It’s not about how much you give: I support the GSE as a reminder of the role the school played in my life.” 

If you are interested in making a bequest to the GSE or would like to let us know that you have already done so, please contact Heather Trippel at 650.724.3641 or