Moonstone Crossing Winery is Acting Locally to Make Global Impact

Nov, 2016
Moonstone Crossing Cancer Research Assistantship award recipients Sharon Otis, Rachel Brewer, and Logan Bailey post with winery owners Don Bremm (M.S. ‘88, Natural Resources) and Sharon Hanks (B.A. ‘79), and Amy Sprowles, professor of Biological Sciences.

Two HSU alumni who own Moonstone Crossing Winery in Trinidad, Calif., want to find a cure for cancer. And they’re investing in HSU students to do it.

In the summer of 2015, Don Bremm (M.S. ‘88, Natural Resources) and Sharon Hanks (B.A. ‘79, Psychology) established the Moonstone Crossing Cancer Research Assistantship to provide hands-on research opportunities to HSU students. Their original $3,000 gift supported two Biology students.
Encouraged by the success of the program, they deepened their investment in 2016 with a gift of about $5,000, expanding the assistantship to support three students.

Under the direction of Amy Sprowles, professor of Biological Sciences, award recipients Sharon Otis, Rachel Brewer, and Logan Bailey spent this past summer researching how genetic changes in stem cells can lead to glioma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

Prof. Sprowles says the goal of the program is to ultimately help people through medicine. “If we can understand the regulation of molecular machinery in the stem cell, we can potentially control the disease and learn how to interrupt processes leading to cancer.”

This opportunity is also benefitting students by preparing them for future careers in research and medicine. “The Moonstone Crossing Assistantship has actually put my goals in reach,” says Bailey. “I marveled at the idea of being able to work in an actual lab, and researching and seeing the scientific process and biology at work. I wanted to make my own contribution to science. This award has given me that opportunity. I am eager to continue contributing to the advancement of cancer research.”

Funding cancer research is deeply personal for Bremm and Hanks. Both have family members who have been affected by the disease. Participating in cancer research is an emotional undertaking for the students, as well.

“Cancer holds a particularly weighted meaning to me as I’ve watched firsthand the damage it can do,” says Brewer, a graduate student. “The summer fellowship has helped me get one step closer toward understanding a part of the big picture. I’m tremendously grateful for that.”

Otis, a graduate student, says the assistantship has positioned her for a future career in the sciences. “I was able to take part in exploring a fascinating scientific question that ultimately has real-world implications for millions of people. And it was all possible through the generosity of people I have never met.”

Bremm and Hanks want others to know how easy it is to support higher education. “We want to encourage others to see the effect a couple $1,000 gifts can have for students,” says Bremm. “You don’t have to be rich to make a difference in a person’s life. With many charities, a gift of this size is a drop in the bucket. At HSU, our money has a lot more traction. Plus, we get to see the people benefitting from our support.”

The owners of Moonstone Crossing Winery are committed to giving back to their community and dedicate a portion of their sales to the assistantship. “We like investing in our local university. And we want others to know how easy it is to help, and how good it feels to make a brighter future for students. Whatever your passion is, give to it,” says Hanks.

If you’d like to join Hanks and Bremm’s efforts, you can make an online donation at to support the Moonstone Crossing Cancer Research Assistantship. If you have questions about this scholarship, or if you’d like to learn about other ways to support HSU students and the community, contact the Office of Philanthropy at or 707-826-5200.