Why is Conrad Prebys’ $20 million gift transformational for SDSU? For starters, scores of students every year in perpetuity will get financial help they might not otherwise receive.
“That’s an amazing investment in our students," said Mary Ruth Carleton, SDSU’s vice president of University Relations and Development who also serves as president and CEO of the Campanile Foundation. “At least 150 students a year will have opportunities to do things they never would have had.”
Then, of course, there’s public perception. As Carleton explains it, there’s a certain cachet that comes along with a donation from Prebys.
"He’s one of the most generous and best-known philanthropists in San Diego,” she said. “His support of some of the region’s most outstanding organizations and institutions is well established.”
As leader of the university’s $500 million Campaign for SDSU, Carleton understands the importance of SDSU’s image on the local level as well as nationally and internationally. She says a $20 million gift demonstrates SDSU’s ascendance to top-tier status among universities that receive large philanthropic gifts and will boost The Campaign’s momentum.
“I hope Conrad's generosity will inspire others to follow suit and make their gifts to The Campaign for SDSU,” she said.
More support from private sources is definitely needed as state funding for SDSU shrinks. In 2003, for example, 30 percent of the university’s operating expenses were covered by money from the state compared to just 21 percent in 2013.
As the budget is ever more tightly squeezed, SDSU’s administrators try to make sure students get the help they need. According to the university’s Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, more than 21,000 SDSU students received some form of scholarship or financial aid for the 2013-14 academic year.
Prebys’ gift helps expand the base from which scholarship fundraising each year may grow. “We need to set a higher benchmark every year for support because we know the state funding, in all honesty, is not going to come back to the level it was,” Carleton explains.
San Diego State’s future, Carleton says, will increasingly depend upon philanthropy. And while Prebys’ $20-million gift will certainly boost the bottom line in fundraising, the Campanile Foundation president and CEO believes its impact may long be felt in other ways.
“When President Hirshman announced Conrad's gift to our Campanile Foundation Board, the members were so excited and very emotional," she says. “It gave them new energy to keep on going to raise more money for San Diego State.
“So in the end, I think, for our campaign we will probably raise more money because of the impact of this incredible gift."