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Friday, March 31, 2023

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All SDSU students benefit from donor support to scholarships, professional programs and academic initiatives. All SDSU students benefit from donor support to scholarships, professional programs and academic initiatives.

The Generosity of Friends

The Campaign for SDSU gains momentum with recent large gifts from several donors.
By Leah R. Singer

Recent multimillion dollar gifts are changing the landscape of San Diego State University even as they enrich the lives of students and faculty across campus.

In the last six months, SDSU has received $15.7 million in major gifts from friends, alumni and faculty. These investments in sciences, education, veterans’ programs, athletics and scholarships enable SDSU to build a strong foundation for the growth of academic and student programs.

Private gifts and pledges to San Diego State’s first ever comprehensive fundraising campaign now total more than $250 million, providing the momentum to reach a tentative goal of $500 million as SDSU heads into the “public” phase of the campaign, which begins in September.

A number of the recent gifts resulted in changes to the names of campus landmarks. Now seen on Montezuma Mesa are the Donald P. Shiley BioScience Center, the Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center and the Fowler Athletics Center.

Transforming through the sciences

Community members like Darlene Shiley understand that the future of SDSU depends on supporting faculty who – like her late husband, Donald – extend the frontiers of human knowledge and the students who will be our future leaders.

Shiley pledged $5 million to support San Diego State’s BioScience Center, now the Donald P. Shiley BioScience Center. In addition to the naming gift, Shiley donated an additional $1 million to support university scholarships in honor of President and Mrs. Weber.

“Because the BioScience Center project was of great personal and professional importance to Stephen and Susan, it seemed appropriate to offer a significant going-away present in tribute to his masterful presidency,” said Shiley, a long-time supporter of SDSU.

Shiley’s gift adds an additional $3.75 million to her 2008 pledge of $1.25 million, which created SDSU’s Donald P. Shiley Center for Cardiovascular Research on the third floor of the BioScience Center.

Transforming through athletics

Ron (’05) and Alexis (’93) Fowler saw the potential of a successful football program to transform an athletics department; and the potential of a nationally-recognized athletics department to take SDSU to the national stage.

After the Aztecs wrapped up a stellar year in football as the 2010 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl champions, the Fowlers pledged $5 million in support of SDSU Athletics.

The pledge came in the form of a challenge: to realize the gift, SDSU must raise a corresponding $5 million during the next five years. Matching gifts can support any area of athletics, including scholarships for student-athletes.

It has been so fulfilling to see the rise of excellence across the university and an honor to be a part of it.

Additionally, the SDSU Athletics building has been renamed the Fowler Athletics Center in recognition of the couple’s leadership.

"The naming of the athletic building is a wonderful tribute to my husband, who has been a major supporter of San Diego State sports for more than 30 years,” Alexis said. “It has been so fulfilling to see the rise of excellence across the university and an honor to be a part of it."

As of May 1, the Athletics Excellence Fund had raised more than $2.2 million in challenge funds, a sure sign that the Fowlers’ gift is unifying the community in support of athletics and academic excellence at SDSU.

Transforming through scholarships

Jim (’59) and Janet (’62, ’63) Sinegal met as undergraduates at San Diego State, and they’ve maintained a connection with the university ever since. Jim is co-founder and CEO of Costco, and Janet is a philanthropist whose work has focused on the education field.

The Sinegals recently pledged $2.5 million to support scholarships for San Diego State University students.
Within SDSU’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, the scholarship component–called Fuel Potential—has raised nearly $31 million.

Scholarship support has become more important than ever as the state funds for education continue to diminish.

“We believe in the power of education and what better way to support the university than to provide educational opportunities for the students directly,” said Janet, who also earned her teaching credential from SDSU.

Of the couple’s $2.5 million gift, $1 million will support the SDSU Guardian Scholars program for foster youth; $1 million will fund the Janet Sinegal Scholarship Endowment in the SDSU College of Education; and $500,000 will support student veterans.

Transforming veterans programs

Joan and Art Barron have a special place in their hearts for San Diego State and its student veterans. They believe the country owes a great debt to the young men and women who have served in the armed forces.

With appreciation and respect for veterans, Joan and Art Barron have given $1 million to fund the SDSU Veterans Center, whose mission is to serve the SDSU student veteran population. The donation will create an endowment to fund the operations of the center in perpetuity.  

“When President Weber explained the veterans program he wanted to start at SDSU, we were ready to enlist,” said Barron, who attended SDSU on the G.I. Bill.

Barron, a U.S. Navy veteran and SDSU alumnus (’60, ’98), and his wife, Joan, were among the first to give to the center when it was established in 2008. Since that time, they have donated toward a number of similar initiatives, including scholarships for veterans, the SDSU Veterans House, and the Student Veteran Organization.

This spring, the SDSU Veterans Center was renamed the Joan and Art Barron Veterans Center in recognition of their support.

Leaving a transformative legacy

Gordon and Janis Shackelford encourage all faculty and staff to look back at their Aztec experiences, identify what they feel strongest about and support it. Their own reflections led to a $1.2-million estate gift to support the scholarships and several departments within the College of Sciences.

The Shackelfords both graduated from SDSU’s College of Sciences. In addition, Gordon (’70, ’74) worked for many years as a lecturer in the Department of Physics and an associate dean of the college. Janis (’72,’74) is a retired research assistant with the SDSU Research Foundation, where she worked in the chemistry and biology laboratories.

Part of the Shackelfords’ gift will support SDSU geologists, who are experts on seismic activity in the southern California region.

Another portion will finance the repair and upkeep of the indispensible ultra centrifuges shared by researchers and students in the College of Sciences. A third share will go to SDSU’s Guardian Scholars program for youth exiting the foster care system.

“If young people go through all the adversity of being foster children and can still manage to fulfill the requirements for attending college, they deserve an education paid for by the state,” Gordon Shackelford said. “We are helping on the practical side because what these kids really need are 12-month dorm rooms with meals.”