The Foundation concluded operations on December 31, 2020. Learn more.



An Evolving Foundation

Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr. is the former Chairman and CEO of the Bechtel Corporation, a major global engineering and construction company. In 1957 he created the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation as a personal commitment to the prosperity he envisioned and desired for California.

Mr. Bechtel directed the Foundation’s primary investments toward STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and the environment. With Mr. Bechtel’s leadership, the Foundation has played a key role in strengthening STEM teaching and learning in California, and promoting the sustainable management of California’s natural resources.

In 2009, the Foundation decided to invest all of its assets – spend down – by 2020 in order to spur significant progress on these challenging issues and to do so sooner rather than later.

Today, a professional staff develops and advances Foundation program objectives, works closely with grantee organizations, and builds relationships with decision makers throughout the state. The ten-person Board of Directors provides high-level guidance to the Foundation’s strategies and grantmaking.


Prior to 2013, the Foundation funded four distinct lines of work: STEM Education, Character Development, Civic Learning, and Environmental Education/Literacy. In the course of grantmaking, staff responsible for these four areas identified the potential to unite the expertise and energy involved in this education programming.

As a result, the Foundation combined staff and strategies to form a single Education Program, which encompasses STEM teaching and learning, character development, and education policy and advocacy.

Coordinating these efforts is enabling the Foundation’s education investments to catalyze the implementation of new standards and strengthen youth-serving organizations in order to increase the quality and quantity of youth learning and development in California.


The Foundation’s efforts to conserve California’s natural resources were inspired by an interest in supporting sustainable populations of migratory waterfowl and providing outdoor recreation opportunities to the state’s communities. Over the years, the Foundation funded efforts to restore wetland habitats and enhance California’s parks. This work offered insight into the underlying challenges of wetland and open space management throughout the state.

The Foundation learned that the decline of California’s wetlands is tied to water management and that water management impacts the functioning of California’s economy in addition to the health of its environment. The Foundation also recognized that beyond conservation and restoration, ongoing stewardship and management of California’s land resources poses great challenges.

As a result, the Environment Program is focused on water management and stewardship of California’s land resources, with an emphasis on building the capacity of key organizations committed to the protection of California’s water and land resources.