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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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Prebys at the dedication ceremony of the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union. Prebys at the dedication ceremony of the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union.

Prebys Earns Honorary Doctorate from SDSU

San Diego philanthropist Conrad Prebys will be the 41st honorary degree recipient in the history of SDSU.
By SDSU News Team

San Diego State University today announced Conrad T. Prebys, who helped build San Diego from the ground up — literally and figuratively —through his real estate development ventures and philanthropic support, will be its sole 2015 honorary doctorate recipient.

He will receive the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from SDSU's College of Business Administration during a private ceremony to be held on June 3, 2015.

Aztec for life

Prebys’ ties to San Diego State University span decades. He has employed dozens of SDSU graduates and rented homes to hundreds of SDSU students. These relationships led to a deeper connection when, in 2014, he made a transformational $20-million gift to create more than 150 scholarships, the largest gift in university history and the first Prebys has given to support individual students.

“Conrad Prebys has been an extraordinary supporter of San Diego State and a host of cultural, bio-medical and educational institutions in our region,” said SDSU President Elliot Hirshman. “His extraordinary generosity and his profound commitment to our students, faculty and staff have inspired our entire campus. We are grateful for his vision and his support.” 

A second gift of $2.5 million to create the Conrad Prebys Chair in Biomedical Research is the most significant endowment ever received by SDSU to support a faculty researcher.

To thank Prebys for his generosity, SDSU named the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union in his honor. Each day, thousands of students, faculty, staff and community members who walk through its halls and courtyard are reminded of his support.

Philanthropic history

From humble beginnings, Prebys rose to a leadership position in San Diego while constructing and renting homes, apartments and storage spaces. He considers himself “the luckiest man alive.”

Prebys’ generosity is as legendary as his business acumen. The Chronicle of Philanthropy numbers him among the country’s leading donors and Business Insider named him one of the "25 Most Generous People in America."

Born into a working-class Indiana family, Prebys came to San Diego in 1965. He joined a local building firm, but left to pursue his own venture, Progress Construction and Management. The company initially built single-family homes before advancing into multi-family residences of all types and subdivision work.  It was one of the earliest developers of strategically placed storage facilities.

Even before he amassed the majority of his wealth, Prebys was drawn to philanthropy. He purchased hams and turkeys for his property managers at Christmas and he supported construction of a clubhouse for the East County Boys and Girls Club. His generosity has benefited KPBS, the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Opera, the Old Globe Theatre, the Salk Institute, Scripps Health and the Sanford/Burnham Medical Research Institute.

Honorary degrees

Since John F. Kennedy was awarded SDSU’s first honorary degree in 1963, the university has conferred 40 honorary doctorates to local, national and international figures. The list includes Israeli president Shimon Peres, former California governor Pete Wilson, College Hall of Fame football coach Don Coryell and former San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders. A complete list of honorary doctorate recipients can be found online.

SDSU commencement

Approximately 9,600 degree candidates will participate in one of seven SDSU Commencement ceremonies May 15-17 at Viejas Arena. SDSU Imperial Valley Campus will also host a commencement ceremony May 14 on the Rollie Carrillo Quad.