From the summer 2017 issue of The Spirit of Washington University
From left: Mary and Petro Estakhri and their son Paymon with men’s soccer coach Joe Clarke during a ceremony honoring senior soccer players in November 2015
The Estakhri family has a passion for soccer. During their son Paymon’s time as a varsity soccer player at Washington University, Petro and Mary Estakhri attended almost all his games. They helped organize family events and made sure the players had good meals when they were on the road.
“We are fortunate to have parents who work together to support our students,” says men’s soccer coach Joe Clarke. “The Estakhris were among those who took the lead when Paymon was on the team.”
The couple has provided generous financial support for the men’s soccer program as well, both during Paymon’s time at the university and after he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering in 2016. In November 2016, the Estakhris made a significant commitment to endow a coaching position for the program, the first such position to be established in the Department of Athletics.
On October 14, Coach Clarke was installed as the Estakhri Family Men’s Soccer Head Coach. During his 20 years as a coach at Washington University, he has guided the men’s team to 19 winning seasons and 10 NCAA Tournament appearances.
“This gift represents a tremendous vote of confidence in Joe Clarke and his ability to make a difference in the lives of our student-athletes,” says Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton. “It provides resources that will allow him to enhance an already successful program, and it will benefit men’s soccer coaches and players for generations to come.”
The Estakhris have a deep respect for Coach Clarke. “He is very knowledgeable, and I like the way he treats his players,” says Mr. Estakhri, who played soccer at the collegiate level himself. “We have gotten to know each other very well over the years, and we have become good friends.”
Mr. Estakhri, president and CEO of Avalanche Technology in Fremont, California, and Mrs. Estakhri, a general surgeon, are grateful that their son had the opportunity to play soccer at Washington University. “We liked the university because we knew our son would get a good education,” Mr. Estakhri says. “And being on the team really enriched his experience. The camaraderie and the memories—that will stay with him always.”
Paymon Estakhri, who now works as an engineer with his father’s company, played in 18 games as a freshman and was a starter his sophomore year, ranking second on the team in shots and sixth in shots on goal. A recurring injury during his junior year prevented him from continuing to play.
Mrs. Estakhri says the lessons her son learned on the field have served him well after graduation. “He is very driven and focused. He also learned about the importance of work-life balance, of having interests outside of work. He has stayed committed to that.”
The Estakhris’ gift will help ensure that future men’s soccer players have the same opportunities to benefit from their time on the playing field. Funds from their endowment will support program priorities, including recruiting, player development, and updated practice equipment.
“To say that the Estakhris have been generous is an understatement,” Coach Clarke says. “They are people who leave every place they have been better than they found it.”
—By Mary Lee