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VALLEY BUSINESS | Valley@Work

CSUN Business School in Market for an Angel

September 19, 2000|KAREN ROBINSON-JACOBS

NORTHRIDGE — Taking a page from some of the nation's most prestigious universities, Cal State Northridge is offering naming rights to its business school in exchange for a $15-million donation.

The matter has been informally discussed for months, but is moving onto a faster track in coming weeks as board members of the Cal State Northridge Foundation and others look to meet new fund-raising goals.

"Fifteen million dollars is a bargain" for school-naming rights in today's economy, asserts foundation Chairman David Honda. But he also suggests that the terms are negotiable, saying: "We have to be realistic."

At least two people with businesses in the San Fernando Valley have been approached and are considering the opportunity, Honda said, but he declined to name them.

The move to seek an angel with an affinity for business education comes as state-funded schools throughout California are having to raise more cash themselves and as business schools around the nation are finding that offering a business education in the age of electronics is becoming an expensive proposition.

"My guess is that we're not many, many years away from the day when most of the major business schools, nearly all, will be named for someone," said Larry Penley, dean of the College of Business at Arizona State University and chairman of the St. Louis-based body that accredits business schools. "I think it's very likely that all of them will be named somewhere down the road."

Nationwide, business schools are trading money for monikers at an increasing rate.

Last week, a $25-million gift to Fairfield University in Connecticut prompted that campus to rename the B-school in honor of Charles C. Dolan, founder and chairman of Cablevision Systems Corp.

And earlier this year, a $50-million donation from Red McCombs, owner of the Minnesota Vikings, led to the naming of the Red McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin.

In fact the international accrediting body--the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business / International Assn. for Management Education--lists nearly 50 business schools across the nation that are named for patrons.

And even though named business schools can be found throughout California, including the Gordon S. Marshall School of Management at USC, and the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA, within the Cal State system, few schools--business or otherwise--bear the name of a benefactor.

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Officials with the Cal State system could think of only one business school--at Fresno--named for a donor. In 1992, Sid Craig, of Jenny Craig Weight Loss fame, made a $10-million donation to the business school there, resulting in the Sid Craig School of Business and Administrative Sciences.

But the anonymous aspect of Cal State schools may be changing, as campuses throughout the system look to meet annual goals that require each campus to raise 10% of their state general-fund allotments through private fund-raising and other sources. For CSUN, for the current fiscal year, that would be $14 million.

"Historically, because CSU campuses were state-funded institutions, private fund-raising was not a traditional major part of our endeavor," said Jolene Koester, president of CSUN. "In recent years, as the share of state funding for institutions has decreased, we have become more dependent on outside and private funding. The priority in the Cal State system for fund-raising has significantly increased and it is now one of our major priorities."

Koester noted that Cal State Northridge is looking for angels not only for the business school but for any of the university's nine separate colleges. So far, however, no one has come forward, check in hand.

University officials noted that several rooms and programs at CSUN already are named for donors--both people and companies. That includes a 120-seat screening room that will be included in the under-construction Arts, Media and Communication building, which will be funded by a $1-million gift from former CSUN faculty member Alan Armer. In addition, the school operates the Los Angeles Times Literacy Center with a donation from the Times Mirror Foundation.

But so far, the school has not been a major player in the name game.

William Hosek, dean of the CSUN College of Business Administration and Economics, said that nearly 10 years ago, the school approached an alum, an executive with a local energy company, seeking to name the college for him in exchange for a gift of $5 million.

The discussions went well, and the school was to receive shares of the company's stock. Then Iraq invaded Kuwait, energy shares went into the tank and that was pretty much the end of that.

"Since then, we've never been able to get back to that point," said Hosek, who welcomed the idea of finding a business school backer with deep pockets. "We keep cultivating donors, but we have not reached the stage where we would think it would be an appropriate time to go after such a big donation."

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