NORTHRIDGE — Hoping to strike at a time when massive earthquake damage on campus has thrust Cal State Northridge into the national spotlight, university officials said Tuesday that they plan to mail fund-raising campaign letters to 130,000 alumni nationwide, their most ambitious solicitation effort in years.
The appeal will consist of three letters from CSUN President Blenda J. Wilson. Alumni in the San Fernando Valley and adjoining earthquake-damaged areas will get a general greeting and update, while alumni in other Southern California areas and nationally will receive specific appeals for contributions of up to $1,000, CSUN officials said.
"When you've been splashed all over the world as an institution that got very badly hit, it's important you communicate with your friends and alumni that you're still alive and well," said Wilson, who was named CSUN's president in May, 1992, with a mandate to improve the campus' historically lagging fund-raising efforts.
Michael Hammerschmidt, CSUN's director of university development, said the Jan. 17 earthquake simply accelerated the university's prior plans to mount a major fund-raising campaign. Without the earthquake, he said, "we probably would have not even started thinking about it for two or three years."
Although no official tally has been prepared, CSUN officials have estimated that the earthquake will cost the campus $250 million to $350 million in damages and other expenses. That would make it the costliest loss ever for a U.S. institution of higher learning. Federal and state disaster relief funds are expected to cover most of the loss.
Any proceeds from the mailed solicitations, which will cost $10,000 to $12,000, will be used toward covering expenses not reimbursed from other sources, Hammerschmidt said. But he offered no estimate of how much money the appeal might produce.
In the forthcoming letter to Valley-area alumni, the university decided against making an explicit financial appeal, figuring local residents may have suffered earthquake losses as well. But Hammerschmidt said the university nonetheless hopes to expand its contacts with those alumni as a prelude to future fund-raising efforts.
In the future, Hammerschmidt said CSUN hopes to do three or four fund-raising mailings a year to alumni. Neither he nor Wilson could recall the last time that CSUN sent as large a fund-raising appeal as is planned this week. In recent years, the university has relied mostly on a computerized phone bank, an operation staffed by paid students.
Although Northridge in 1992-1993 ranked as the fourth-largest campus in enrollment in the 20-campus Cal State system, it ranked only 10th in attracting donations, a total of $4.9 million, according to state records. But only about $450,000 of that came from alumni.
Since the earthquake, the university has already received a $50,000 donation from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, $25,000 from The Commonwealth Fund and $10,000 from Union Bank, Hammerschmidt said. Wilson serves as a director for the latter two groups. CSUN also received an unsolicited $1,000 donation from a graduate alumnus in Japan.
In other developments, the campus, which reopened Monday, showed fewer signs of chaos. Workers toiled to complete the remainder of a mini-city of portable classrooms brought in because virtually all of CSUN's major classroom buildings remain closed. Even so, students and faculty members seemed to better cope with the disarray than on opening day.
More portable classrooms were opened and signs identifying individual classrooms and areas, virtually absent the day before, were widely posted. But clusters of modular classrooms mostly at the north end of the campus remained incomplete, and many groups of instructors and students were forced to gather in the open or under the shade of trees.
CSUN Dean of Libraries Susan Curzon predicted that the heavily damaged Delmar T. Oviatt Library will remain closed at least for the entire spring semester. The expected long delay in reopening the library, the centerpiece building on campus, is due to the extensive work required to identify how severely it was damaged, she said.
Students, meanwhile, are being shuttled to UCLA, and Curzon said she hopes to have an electronic mini-library open in temporary quarters on campus within a month.