Alumnus Wins $266 Million

Gilbert and Jacki Cisneros plan to use their lottery winnings to give back to the community and church.

Jacki and Gil Cisneros wedding photo
May 10, 2010

By Menachem Wecker

On May 4, Jacki Cisneros woke her husband Gilbert, B.A. ’94, up and asked him if he had bought a lottery ticket at the L & L Hawaiian BBQ where he had eaten dinner the previous night. Sure enough, the numbers on one of the tickets Gil bought matched the California State Lottery’s winning numbers. The couple was $266 million richer.

“My first thought was just sign the ticket and make copies then put it somewhere safe,” says Mr. Cisneros, who lives in Pico Rivera, Calif., and recently lost his job. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. I think once I take a look at my new portfolio, then it will hit me.”

In a segment on NBC’s TODAY show, Matt Lauer said the good fortune could not have found a nicer couple. In the interview, Mr. Cisneros said the couple plans on giving back to their church and their alma maters.

“Religion has become very important to me,” says Mr. Cisneros. “Six years ago I made my first communion and confirmation, and ever since then I have attended church on a regular basis.”

Mr. and Mrs. Cisneros were married in 2005 at the Vatican, and Mr. Cisneros says he believes making sacraments later in life has strengthened his commitment and given him a better understanding of the rituals of Mass.

As a student at GW, Mr. Cisneros majored in political science and was in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps program.

“I have great memories from GW! I loved my time there,” he says. “When I recall some of the best experiences I have had, most are from my time at GW.”

Mr. Cisneros remembers hearing speeches from Jesse Jackson and former President Ronald Reagan and enjoyed attending Colonials basketball games. “When GW made the Sweet 16 in ’93, I remember the whole campus being excited,” he says.

He made “great lifelong friends” at GW, and has used Facebook to reconnect with former classmates. “I have not been able to participate in the alumni community like I would have liked due to my work schedule, but now that will change,” he says. “When things settle down, I hope to become more active and participate in events.”

Basking in a national spotlight does not come naturally to Mr. Cisneros. “I went kicking and screaming,” he says. “I would have preferred to have stayed anonymous, but my wife, who works in television news, went with her natural instincts and started chasing the story even though we were the story!”

Before he knew it, the one interview he had agreed to turned into eight, with requests pouring in from around the country. “It is just so surreal to think that all these people want to speak with us,” he says.

Mr. Cisneros says he and his wife have been discussing what to do with the money. “We are happy that this will give us an opportunity to travel more,” he says.

“But more importantly, we are excited we will be able to set up a foundation that will allow us to give back. We want to be able to give people a chance to go to college. My wife and I strongly believe education is the way to a successful future, so it is going to be our focus.”

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