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Fundraising campaign paying off for Cal Poly Pomona

Despite challenging economic times, the campus has amassed more than $100 million in donations and pledges midway through the ambitious campaign, the first of its kind at the school.

April 01, 2012|By Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times

Despite challenging economic times, Cal Poly Pomona has amassed more than $100 million in donations and pledges midway through an ambitious fundraising campaign, university officials announced Wednesday.

The Campaign for Cal Poly Pomona was launched in November 2010 with a goal of raising $150 million for research, scholarships and other campus needs. The first comprehensive fundraising effort of its kind at the school began amid a recession that sapped resources from potential donors as well as from state coffers, resulting in steep funding cuts to California's public colleges and universities.

California State University's 23 campuses lost $750 million in state funding in 2011-12, with cuts to the Pomona campus totaling nearly $32.5 million. But those and previous cuts have spurred support from alumni and others, including 5,000 donors who made first-time contributions, officials said.

"To generate this level of support in this economic environment is truly amazing," Pomona President Michael Ortiz said in a statement. 

The fundraising campaign has sought to leverage the years of budget cuts to its advantage, showing potential donors the leaking roofs, ancient heating and air conditioning systems and outdated lab equipment that used to be kept from view, said Scott Warrington, vice president of advancement at the campus.

"We're taking the cause directly to them," Warrington said in an interview. "Many have seen the headlines about the state of higher education and the decline in what we're able to offer and the numbers of students we're capable of serving. People see California truly in a state of hurt with problems that are not going to be fixed overnight."

The fundraising effort has had to overcome the hesitation of many who want to make a pledge but fear tumbling stock prices, repercussions from Chinese or European markets or other economic losses. Donations of property have been hurt by the real estate crash, officials said.

Still, the campaign has seen an increase in the number of donors in the $500-to-$1,000 range as well as those giving $500,000 to $1 million, Warrington said.

The major push for the campaign began with a $42-million gift by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to increase enrollment of first-generation college students, recently released foster youths, military veterans and other underrepresented populations in Southern California. 

It was the largest such donation in the history of a California State University. Kellogg's connection to the Pomona campus dates from the 1920s, when he built a ranch as a winter retreat in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

In 1949, two years before his death, the foundation deeded the land to California's state college system for use as a campus, and it has provided continuing support to the school.

The campus is already enjoying the fruits of the campaign, with two large solar panels donated by Amonix Inc. powering the campus' 16-acre John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies. In addition, more than $5 million in scholarships were awarded this academic year.

Shawnice Beal received two scholarships while attending the Pomona campus — one of them allowing her to participate in the Renaissance Scholars program for former foster youths. Both were essential in helping her afford tuition, books and campus housing, she said.

Beal graduated in December with a bachelor's degree in psychology and is now a child-care worker at two group homes.

"I didn't really have a home outside of college, and when things got financially stressful these scholarships were there for me," said Beal, 23, who was in foster care for 11 years.

Donors, she said, deserve a lot of gratitude. "They didn't have to take the time to help you out or support you financially, and it really means a lot."

carla.rivera@latimes.com

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