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Family a Fountain of Generosity at CSUCI

Campus supporter John Broome commissions a work of art merging Chumash culture with dolphins, the school's mascot.

September 24, 2003|Fred Alvarez | Times Staff Writer

Ventura County philanthropist John S. Broome has been a generous supporter of Cal State Channel Islands, donating millions of dollars for everything from new textbooks to a state-of-the-art library.

Now he thinks the new campus near Camarillo needs a more whimsical touch.

Last week, the Oxnard rancher agreed to fund creation of a 12-foot-high fountain in front of the university's science building in which a pair of bronze bottle-nosed dolphins will leap over water spurting from a stone of special significance to the Chumash tribe.

The fountain is being designed by sculptor James "Bud" Bottoms, whose work includes the "Friendship Fountain" at Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf and a similar monument, featuring a trio of dolphins, at the entrance to the Long Beach Aquarium.

The dolphin is the Channel Islands campus mascot, and the bounding pair are meant to symbolize students soaring to fulfill their aspirations. The sharp-witted mammal has long been considered a friend and spiritual protector to the Chumash.

"We are just unbelievably touched by Jack Broome's continued generosity," Channel Islands President Richard Rush said. "Jack has been magical for us, not because he gives us these gifts but because he gives us his heart."

Broome's donation continues a tradition of gift-giving at the university that began years before the campus opened last fall.

Over the years, benefactors have provided the means for university officials to do everything from funding student scholarships to installing a bell system in a landmark tower at the campus, formerly Camarillo State Hospital.

Taken together, the university's nonprofit fund-raising foundation has collected $15 million in gifts and pledges since its creation in 1996.

According to audited figures for the 2001-02 school year, Channel Islands ranked 11th out of California State University's 23 colleges in voluntary giving -- and that was before the new campus opened for business.

Broome was among the first to open his wallet, contributing $5 million in 1999 to create a library and media center that will serve as the centerpiece for the campus. The 260,000-square-foot building, being designed by renowned London architect Norman Foster, is expected to be completed in 2005.

John Broome Jr. said his father has long been an admirer of Bottoms' sculptures and believed the university's mascot provided the perfect opportunity to share his artwork with the campus community. The family would not specify how much it was donating for the fountain.

"He's just a fan of the university and thinks it's a great addition to this community," the younger Broome said. "We are all very excited that the university is up and going, and we want to support it."

The fountain concept has been in the works for about a year. A decision was made over the summer to put the fountain in front of the college's new science building, which opened this year.

The dolphins will stand 8 feet high, balanced on a giant replica of a Chumash stone that will sit in a 20-foot-wide concrete pool. The stone will be engraved with a Native American cave painting that features four dolphins swimming in a protective circle.

Bottoms, whose work in Ventura County includes creation of a monument to the victims of an Alaska Airlines jet that crashed off the Port Hueneme coast in 2000, said he was thrilled to learn years ago that Cal State Channel Islands had chosen the dolphin to be its mascot.

Bottoms said he had contacted the university president to see if he could get in on the dolphin delirium he was certain would spread across the campus. But he never dreamed that he would get a call from a benefactor eager to put one of his dolphin sculptures on campus, he said.

"That's the most beautiful university I can imagine," said the Santa Barbara artist, who has erected dolphin sculptures around the world. "I'm really proud to be part of this."

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