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Thursday, October 6, 2022

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Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union

An Exceptionally Good Year

KPBS and planned gifts lead SDSU to a banner fundraising year.
By Tobin Vaughn

“In addition to our generous donors, I want to make sure we give recognition to the many people before us who helped set the stage for this success.”

As San Diego State University kicks off a new academic year with its annual Day of Giving set for September 25, administrators hope to launch a year of philanthropy as successful as the last. During the 2018-19 fiscal year, the university netted almost $116 million in gifts, a significant increase from just over $83 million in 2017-2018.

SDSU Interim Vice President of University Relations and Development Adrienne Vargas characterized the final tally as “an exceptionally good year.” She said the total was especially gratifying considering the university is not currently involved in a fundraising campaign.

“The culture of philanthropy that was built during The Campaign for SDSU continues to benefit the university,” Vargas said. “In addition to our generous donors, I want to make sure we give recognition to the many people before us who helped set the stage for this success.”

Leading the way in terms of total gift amounts was KPBS, which raised more than $48 million last year, followed by more than $27 million generated by the university’s Office of Planned Giving. Vargas credited KPBS General Manager Tom Karlo (’75) and his staff for their outstanding work in donor development and stewardship along with maintaining the station’s commitment to high-quality journalism and programming.  

“At a time when I think our country has a new appreciation for independent and trustworthy media, I think there is no organization as important in San Diego as KPBS,” Vargas said. “As a part of San Diego State, they are a reflection of what we stand for and what we aspire to be through our research, our students, and our service to the San Diego community.” 

SDSU and KPBS make a difference

For its part, KPBS used a $15 million anonymous matching gift to launch a capital campaign of its own last year. The station has plans to remodel and add an additional 6,000 square feet of public engagement space.

KPBS is regularly among the highest-rated Public Broadcasting Service television stations in the country in terms of market share percentage. Karlo says KPBS has more than 35 different digital and traditional platforms through which it disseminates its news and programming.

Arriving at SDSU as a student in 1973, Karlo has remained as a KPBS employee ever since. He exudes an infectious enthusiasm for both.

“I believe so much in what we do here at KPBS and to me it is an extension of what we do here at San Diego State,” he said. “I have this incredible passion for both San Diego State and KPBS to make a difference in this community.”

Planned giving

Although SDSU’s planned giving program has been in place for more than 25 years, it has gained additional traction in the past five years as more alumni and friends of the university have chosen to include SDSU in their estate planning. Associate Vice President of Operations Amy Walling heads SDSU’s four-person Office of Planned Giving, which assists those who wish to leave a permanent legacy at the university through endowments or other means.  

She said momentum for planned giving has been generated as these types of gifts are publicized. Alumni especially have become more interested in finding ways to support SDSU in perpetuity.

“These gifts allow us to have resources for the future in programs that our donors are interested in and want to see continue at the university,” Walling said. Besides endowed scholarships and faculty chairs, there are many additional options for leaving a legacy, she emphasized. 

Further contributing to last year’s fundraising growth, Vargas said the university has become more adept at utilizing data analytics to reach out to individuals who might be inclined to leave a legacy at SDSU. “These are people who have always loved San Diego State and who would consider supporting the university, but were just waiting to be asked,” she said.

Vargas said SDSU honors and recognizes planned giving donors the same as cash donors. “A lot of organizations don’t do that,” she said, “but we do.” 

Planned giving donors are invited to special events such as celebrations of philanthropy. If they have only recently reengaged with the university, they once again become part of the SDSU community through gifts that will keep them connected forever.

You may make a contribution or become a member of KPBS at

Learn more about leaving your legacy at SDSU at or by contacting Amy Walling at 619-594-0286 or