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Monday, October 18, 2021

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In 2019-20, SDSU gift commitments totaled more than $127 million, representing an increase of almost 10% from the previous fiscal year. (Photo: Gary Payne) In 2019-20, SDSU gift commitments totaled more than $127 million, representing an increase of almost 10% from the previous fiscal year. (Photo: Gary Payne)
 


Donors Come Through for SDSU

Despite pandemic-related challenges of the past year, donations to the university remain strong.
By Tobin Vaughn
 

“There is a tremendous sense of gratitude from the whole campus community for the generosity of our donors.”

Moving into the final quarter of its 2020-21 fiscal year, San Diego State University is on track for another great year of philanthropic gifts. Despite an economic downturn in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, donations to the university are coming in at a steady pace according to SDSU Vice President of University Relations and Development Adrienne Vargas.

In 2019-20, SDSU gift commitments totaled more than $127 million, representing an increase of almost 10% from the previous fiscal year. In terms of fundraising, “We are about where we were last year and 2019-20 was an outstanding year,” Vargas said. “That’s pretty extraordinary considering this year has been negatively affected by COVID-19 from start to finish.”

Needs and Opportunities

One bright spot is donors who are coming through for SDSU in a big way. While the arrival of a long-established bequest to the astronomy department contributed $14 million to this year’s robust fundraising outlook, many alumni and friends with strong and deeply rooted SDSU connections are deciding now is the time to make transformational gifts.

These donors are identifying ways to contribute to the university’s growth and expanding reputation for excellence. The catalysts for their gifts, Vargas said, are both opportunity and need.

“Our donors see how they can participate and make a difference, so when an opportunity presents itself, they step up,” Vargas said. “This year I think many donors saw the need, were in a strong position to do something, and they did.”

Vargas points to a $500,000 gift from Elynor (’63) and Gen. Merrill McPeak (’57) to create two endowed scholarship programs in the College of Arts and Letters. The Elynor F. McPeak Endowed Scholarship for Economics Excellence will provide support for graduate students pursuing a master’s degree in the Department of Economics, while the Elynor F. McPeak Endowed Scholarship for Aztec Forensics Excellence will help students participating in SDSU’s competitive speech and debate team in the School of Communication. 

The couple met while students at SDSU participating on the forensics team. “They wanted to make a meaningful gift to their alma mater and it couldn’t have come at a better time,” Vargas said.

Areas of Interest

Vargas identified two areas of interest prompting large gifts this year. One is the development of SDSU Mission Valley and the other is the ongoing discussion of racial equity that is spurring support for student affairs.

“Of course the new stadium is a big part of it, but the national conversation around race is creating a new awareness around the need to help our society become more equitable,” she said. Vargas referred to a $500,000 gift from San Diego philanthropists Malin Burnham and Bob Payne (’55) announced in December 2020 to establish the Harold K. Brown Knowledge, Education and Empowerment Program designed to further the success of SDSU’s Black/African American students in becoming the next generation of community and business leaders.

Also in the first half of the current fiscal year, The Campanile Foundation Board Athletics Committee Chair Steve Doyle (’80), president and owner of Sandy Point Properties, LLC, made a $500,000 donation to the Stadium Excellence Fund. Doyle’s involvement with the SDSU Mission Valley project from the outset was key to the university acquiring the site for campus expansion.

“I made a financial commitment to this new stadium because I believe in it and because I believe in SDSU,” Doyle said of his gift. It is that kind of belief and that type of support, Vargas said, that are helping SDSU through one of the most challenging times the university has ever faced.

“The importance of these transformational gifts, particularly at this time, cannot be overstated,” Vargas said. “There is a tremendous sense of gratitude from the whole campus community for the generosity of our donors.”