When private giving leverages public funding, amazing things happen.
The combination of public and private support for higher education can take research to a whole new level or expand a modest program into one that benefits hundreds of students.
Terry Atkinson recognized the importance of supporting research when he reconnected with his alma mater, San Diego State.
A 1969 graduate and public administration major, Atkinson moved from Southern California, to San Francisco, to New York as he rose through the ranks of big-name brokerage firms. He lost contact with SDSU.
A few years ago, Atkinson received a phone call from SDSU’s vice president for development, Mary Ruth Carleton. She invited him to visit the campus and attend a few athletic events.
Atkinson was impressed with SDSU’s growth. He joined the Campanile Foundation, the university’s philanthropic auxiliary, and a lynchpin of The Campaign for SDSU. Launched in July 2007, The Campaign for SDSU has raised $385 million of its $500 million goal.
In 2012, Atkinson decided to make an investment in the university’s future. His $1.5-million planned gift will establish an endowment to strengthen SDSU’s ambitious research agenda.
“This university and its leaders are making a bet on the future,” Atkinson said. “Research is the piece that will differentiate SDSU from other universities and attract more funding here. We have outstanding researchers in the fields of heart disease, public health, engineering and so many others. These faculty and their students are making a difference in people’s lives.”
Poised for growth
An early example of private philanthropy building on public support was Darlene Shiley’s gift to expand SDSU’s BioScience Center in honor of her late husband, inventor of the Bjork-Shiley heart valve.
The Donald P. Shiley BioScience Center is the first dedicated research building in the California State University system. Darlene Shiley's gift in 2008 created the Shiley Cardiovascular Center on one floor of the building.
In 2011, she made a second gift to support ongoing research at the BioScience Center and rename it the Donald P. Shiley BioScience Center. It is the only multidisciplinary center in the country to focus research efforts on the critical nexus of infection, inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
There are dozens of funded SDSU programs and research projects poised to advance in size and scope with an injection of donor funds. The endowment established by Atkinson’s gift lays a foundation for growth in a many different areas.
“This is important,” Atkinson said. “Research is the future of higher education and SDSU needs to be part of it.”