John and Carmen Aitken’s love story started on the ski slopes at Squaw Valley in 1963. John, ’54 Business Administration, had been a Spartan student leader, active in the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and student body president before being commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy, where he was honorably discharged as a lieutenant five years later. Carmen had been living in San Francisco and was learning to ski when she crashed into John as he was waiting to ascend the ski lift, puncturing his jacket with her ski pole. She offered to repair the jacket, later returning it to him with a makeshift patch. Within a year they were married. Throughout their 52 years together, John would often share his memories of San José State, which Carmen describes as “among the happiest times of his life.” Late in life, he established the John M. Aitken Business Scholarship Award for undergraduates in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business. A few years after his death, Carmen accelerated the bequest to help students now.
“I care about the university because John cared about the university, and anything that was near and dear to his heart became near and dear to my heart as well,” says Carmen. “John was the love and joy of my life for 52 years. He enjoyed his four years at SJSU so much. His time there, his interactions with professors, staff and student body helped shape who he became.”
For 26 years, John sold advertising for CBS radio and television and NBC and was inducted into the Northern California Broadcast Legends Organization Hall of Fame in 1990. He wanted to encourage students to study business, be active in student government and engage with their communities.
“I would like recipients of the John M. Aitken Business Scholarship Award to do well and be mindful that someone at some time helped them along their life’s journey and that, if possible, they should continue the tradition of giving back if they are in a position to do so,” she says. “I admire people who give their time, talent and treasures to education, philanthropy or community engagement.”
—Julia Halprin Jackson