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Cal Poly Pomona receives $42-million cash grant, largest in Cal State history

July 26, 2010 |  2:03 pm
Cal Poly Pomona announced Monday that it has been awarded a $42-million cash gift -- the largest such donation in the history of California State University -- by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, whose cereal magnate founder established an Arabian horse ranch in the hills that now make up the northern edge of the campus.

The grant will be given over five years, including an initial $10 million in August, followed by yearly awards of $8 million, officials said. The money will be used to increase enrollment of first-generation college students, recently emancipated foster youth, military veterans and other underrepresented populations in Southern California.

“This is really going to be an extraordinary addition to the university,” Cal Poly Pomona President Michael Ortiz said. “The foundation has been impressed with the way the university has evolved and the direction in which we’ve been headed. There are a number of initiatives we’ve been working on all along, and we’ll be able to expand those and create new ones.”

The university was originally an extension of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and became an independent campus in 1966. It serves more than 20,000 students, 31% of whom are Latino, 26% Asian and Pacific Islander, 25% white and 3% black.

In a statement, Kellogg Foundation President and Chief Executive Sterling K. Speirn, said the gift was to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of the breakfast cereal pioneer, who was a strong believer in higher education and investing in vulnerable youth.

“As the 12th most ethnically diverse university in the United States, Cal Poly Pomona’s deep commitment to and track record of providing access to quality college education for students of color strongly aligns with the foundation’s work to support racial healing and to remove systemic barriers that hold some children back,” Speirn said.

Kellogg had a long history with the university, dating from the 1920s when he built a ranch in the rolling San Gabriel Mountains foothills as a winter retreat. The public was invited to performances of his prized Arabian horses, which were also used in many Hollywood films. In 1949, two years before his death, the foundation deeded the land to California’s state college system for use as a campus, and it has provided continuing support to the university.

The school still holds monthly Arabian horse exhibitions and the current gift sprang from a meeting of the Arabian Horse Advisory Committee, on which one of the foundation board members serves, Ortiz said.

Prior to the Kellogg Foundation donation, the largest cash gift to a Cal State campus was a $40-million pledge to Fresno State by PepsiCo in 2000. Cal Poly San Luis Obispo received a $60-million bequest in 2008 that included real estate, stock and other assets.

With the budget crisis shrinking state funding, Cal State campuses and other California universities are increasingly looking to private support to bolster programs.

The Kellogg gift “will make an extraordinary difference in the lives of countless students, and we are extremely grateful that they have chosen us for this unprecedented showing of generosity,” Cal State Chancellor Charles B. Reed said.

-- Carla Rivera

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