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Thursday, June 1, 2023

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Greg and Elisabeth Fowler Greg and Elisabeth Fowler

Fowler College of Business Gifts Support Students, Faculty

Greg and Elisabeth Fowler donated to the college because they want future graduates to have a fair opportunity for career success, and to give researchers more access to funding to aid their work.
By Jeff Ristine

Greg Fowler (’83) sees them all the time in the real estate and investment world he inhabits: the ones who get jobs straight out of college through their parents’ connections, attending an Ivy League school, belonging to the right club.

Then there are the ones more familiar around San Diego State University — all the same smarts and hustle, but not the easy ins. Some are the first in their family to go to college, and some may need a mentor to coach them on job seeking skills like how to dress for an interview and the importance of showing up for a meeting on time.

These are the ones Fowler looks for when hiring interns for FPA Multifamily, his San Francisco-based real estate acquisition firm, students who “didn't have the same systems in place to have a shot,” he said.

With two sets of gifts to SDSU’s Fowler School of Business, Fowler and his wife, Elisabeth Fowler, hope to help career advising and professional programs for undergraduates, and fill in some gaps in the data needs of faculty in the school’s finance department.

An initial gift was made of $500,000. More recently, the Fowlers made an additional gift of $500,000 for a total of $1 million.

Greg Fowler said the couple was motivated in part by the chance to provide a major contribution to the $25 million matching gift pledged in 2016 by the school’s namesake, San Diego business owner Ron Fowler (no relation, but they know each other) and his wife, Alexis Fowler.

Greg Fowler put himself through school while earning a degree in finance, working in restaurants and taking a series of internships. He was rush chair for the SDSU Interfraternity Council.

“Elisabeth and I really focused on giving kids a chance,” he said. “A lot of kids that are first generation, they don’t know how to get an internship, they don’t know how to get a job. So our thought has always been the way to even the playing field is to help the kids that normally wouldn’t be able to get an internship or to get the right career advice or to know how to write a resume, to create opportunities for them.”

Supporting careers

Half of the Fowlers’ gift went to the Career Management Center, supporting expanded programs in career advising, career fairs and professional development. Elisabeth Fowler described their goal with a reference to a business term for the promises companies make to their customers – in this case, students.

“We want to ensure that the value proposition at San Diego State is as robust as it could possibly be,” she said.

“It's a great place for kids to come. The tuition is affordable….but to have them have a maximum opportunity, so they can be competitive with peers for the careers that they want.”

Tina Tan, interim director of the center, said the gift already has been put to good use, supporting a “transformational impact” on students.

“Thanks to Greg and Elisabeth's generosity, the Career Management Center has been able to expand our services across the college, develop more career-readiness programs and resources for our business students to ensure they are prepared for entering the business world,” she wrote.  “We are able to bring in expert guest speakers, give students opportunities to engage with industry professionals, and connect them with employers.”

The couple’s other gift provides specific support for access to financial databases to support research, coursework, projects and professional development. (The additional $500,000 will be divided in similar fashion.)

Fowler said the implications of tight budgets are greater than they may seem at first. Without data, he said, faculty are hamstrung in completing research and publishing journal articles and keep up in their profession.

Kamal Haddad, Robert and Amy Abramson Professor of Finance and the department chair, said the Fowlers’ support addresses a key priority for the department.

“The continuous availability of research data is critical for current department faculty to maintain Scholarly Academic status, to enhance faculty professional growth, and enable faculty retention and departmental recruitment efforts as senior faculty retire,” he wrote.

Many of these databases, he added, are readily available to faculty at peer school and other California State University campuses; in some cases, Fowler faculty can obtain the needed data only through professional contacts or co-authorships.

“These are stopgap solutions and not a desirable way to meet long-term professional growth objectives,” Haddad said.

Elisabeth Fowler, who started volunteering as a young adult and considers herself “a public policy wonk,” said the Ron Fowler matching pledge made the couples’ gift all the more appealing.

“This is what's really exciting,” she said, “It shows how powerful a gift of any size can be.”