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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

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Ron Fowler speaks to ceremony attendees following the naming of the Fowler College of Business Administration. (Photo: Lauren Radack) Ron Fowler speaks to ceremony attendees following the naming of the Fowler College of Business Administration. (Photo: Lauren Radack)

Fowler Endowment Adds to a Robust Legacy

Ron and Alexis Fowler's gift is the largest in SDSU history.
By Coleen L. Geraghty

Ron Fowler’s legacy of supporting San Diego State University stretches back long before the launch of the university’s first comprehensive campaign. A highly successful businessman, he values strategic investments, which is why his giving has been the kind that makes an impact.

The impact of his latest gift—a $25 million challenge pledge from Fowler, (’05 LHD), and his wife, Alexis (‘93)—will mark the Fowler College of Business Administration as a premier institution in California.  

“It’s fun to give back,” Fowler said. “The psychic rewards for that are really significant…You see the smiles. You see the impact. It’s what life is all about as far as I’m concerned…and higher education is a huge priority for us.”

The Fowlers’ most recent gift is the largest in the history of SDSU.

A campaign leader

In 1986, Fowler seeded the Entrepreneurial Management Center at SDSU, the first of its kind in San Diego. He envisioned a program that would tap into the entrepreneurial DNA within the Aztec community. Additional investment from like-minded donors, including Leonard Lavin, turned Fowler’s vision into the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center, and SDSU’s entrepreneurship program rose as high as No. 21 on U.S. News and World Report’s list of the nation’s best entrepreneurship programs in higher education.

With an eye for strategic investment, Fowler deepened his involvement with SDSU in 1999. He became the inaugural chair of the university’s Campanile Foundation and helped shape the foundation board into an effective organization to lead SDSU’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign.

Fowler’s generosity to SDSU never flagged during the following decades. He and Alexis supported SDSU’s then-fledgling hospitality and tourism management program and scholarships for student-athletes. They also became cornerstone donors for the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center, contributing $1 million to name the Fowler Family Ballroom.

“My philosophy goes back to my late mom who gave of her time,” Fowler said. “There wasn’t much treasure in her life. But she believed you needed to give back. And I’ve been privileged to make a very good living in San Diego. This is our adopted community—Alexis and myself—and as such we want to give back to it.”

Honors from the state

The university formally recognized the Fowlers’ positive impact in 2005, when SDSU and California State University awarded Ron an honorary doctor of letters degree and again the following year, when the couple received the Monty Award for Distinguished Alumni Service.

In 2011, the Fowlers made another transformational gift, pledging $5 million over five years to accelerate giving to SDSU Athletics. In order to realize the gift, the university was to raise a corresponding $5 million. In fact, Athletics raised $70.5 million since the beginning of 2011, and the overall success of SDSU student-athletes has reached unprecedented heights. Fittingly, the Fowler Athletics Center is home to Aztec athletics.

The Fowlers’ most recent gift is both an endowment and a challenge pledge, of which $2 million has so far been matched. It will provide scholarships and professorships, develop a lecture series, and provide international experiences and expanded programming for SDSU business students. The gift pushes the university past the $750 million goal of The Campaign for SDSU.

“Ron has always believed in the potential greatness of SDSU,” said Mary Ruth Carleton, vice president of University Relations and Development. “This gift is his and Alexis' way to inspire and encourage the university and our donors to believe and to build a top-ranked business school and university.”