Up to the Challenge: $42 Million Kellogg Gift Propels Comprehensive Campaign
November 4, 2010 5:02 PM
July 26, 2010 will go down as one of the most significant days in Cal Poly Pomona history. It was the day that firmly wedded the university's past with its future, the day that the university officially charted a new course in advancement. It was, as President Michael Ortiz said, a transformational day.
That morning, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation announced it was awarding $42 million to Cal Poly Pomona, instantly more than doubling the university's endowment and providing new opportunities for historically underrepresented groups. It also pushed the university toward the public launch of the $150 million comprehensive fundraising campaign, an unprecedented effort to expand the resources needed to ensure the university's polytechnic mission. Newspapers and television stations covered the story, and websites across the United States picked up various accounts. Even a New Zealand publication, Horse Talk, got in on the action, focusing on the gift and the equestrian team.
Lost amid some of the coverage was the fact that Cal Poly Pomona was founded on a legacy of giving, with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and its namesake founder being the driving force.
In the 1920s, breakfast cereal pioneer W.K. Kellogg established his winter residence and ranch in the rolling hills of what is now the northern edge of the campus. He created a lush landscape, built an ultra-modern house and invited the public to enjoy performances by his prized Arabian horses. Hollywood stars often visited, and Kellogg lent some of his herd for use in movies. In 1949, two years before Kellogg's death, the foundation that bears his name deeded the land to California's state college system, reflecting his long-held belief that "education offers the greatest opportunity for really improving one generation over another."
Sterling K. Speirn, the foundation's president and CEO, says Kellogg was a strong believer in higher education. "His vision of 'investing in people' has translated into the foundation's fundamental belief that access to a high-quality education is vital to enhancing the lives of vulnerable youth."
Through the years, the university and its students have benefited from the foundation's generosity, including funds to establish scholarships and build the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center.
The $42 million grant, a record cash gift to the CSU, comes at a propitious time for the university, coinciding with the downturn in the economy and the ambitious comprehensive fundraising campaign.
"This grant will allow us to change lives and contribute to the economic growth and prosperity of the region," Ortiz says. "The CSUs have long been the gateway to opportunity for generations of Californians, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is helping to ensure that the gateway remains open."
The donation takes the form of a challenge grant, which is a gift awarded with the understanding that the recipient organization will meet an announced fundraising goal. In this case, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has challenged Cal Poly Pomona alumni and supporters to rally behind the university's $150 million comprehensive campaign.
"Now, more than ever, we need our friends and supporters. Financial realities have outpaced funding resources," says Scott Warrington, vice president for university advancement, pointing out that state support of the CSUs has declined nearly 60 percent in the last 12 years.
The role of advancement is not to offset reduced state funding, which is a matter best decided among education advocates, taxpayers and their representatives in Sacramento. Rather, the goal is to generate support for the things not funded by the state that enhance education at Cal Poly Pomona: classroom resources to keep pace with rapidly changing industry, scholarships to aid promising students, faculty development and research assistance, and community outreach.
The comprehensive campaign is intended not only to ensure that Cal Poly Pomona has the technology and resources to educate future generations, but to create a culture of giving that continues long after the $150 million fundraising goal has been achieved.
To do that, the university must reach out to those who benefited from their education.
Alumni who support the university often say they are motivated by their memories of when they were students, Warrington says.
"When we talk to major gift donors, we're often told that their time on campus was the time of their life. They reflect on a person on campus -- a faculty or staff member -- who influenced them. Those who are successful recognize that their education helped get them where they are today."
Bob Balzer, executive director of the comprehensive campaign, says it's essential to let the university's alumni know that their alma mater is making impressive gains, gains that are being achieved because of people who give back.
"We want to spur our alumni to reflect on their own education, which helps them see the value of philanthropy," Balzer says. "Those who give know that it can be rewarding, fulfilling and inspiring to others."
That was the case with 1980 alumni Mickey and Lee Segal, longtime university supporters. This summer, the couple pledged $2 million to Cal Poly Pomona, helping the university build momentum for the comprehensive campaign.
Mickey Segal, who has also volunteered to serve as vice chair of planned giving for the campaign, says the experiences he gained during his time at Cal Poly Pomona proved invaluable in launching his career.
"My education at Cal Poly Pomona was crucial to my success in my business," Segal says. "The hands-on experience and internships that I participated in put me well ahead of the competition after graduation."
He is now managing partner at Nigro, Karlin, Segal & Feldstein, LLP, a certified public accounting firm based in Century City with roots in the entertainment industry.
"I have this bell in my head. It says, 'You know you have been extremely successful, and if you want to stay successful, it's your obligation to give back.' That bell keeps me driven and motivated."
Creating a culture of giving requires recognition that everyone who donates is valued, says Michelle Moyer, associate vice president for development.
"The person who pledges $50 or $100 a year is often the one who ends up making a large planned gift years later. And over the years, the smaller gifts add up," she says.
Success is measured not only in dollars, but in the ways that alumni relate to Cal Poly Pomona, adds Moyer, herself a graduate of the university.
"Advancement is about connecting with people. It's about building relationships. We have a story to tell, but we also listen. We're interested in people's lives."
Honest, personal communication has been the bottom line for as long as advancement has been a part of the uiversity.
Ron Simons, a fixture at Cal Poly Pomona for five decades, established the alumni affairs office -- the precursor to advancement -- in 1969, not long after Cal Poly Pomona became independent from San Luis Obispo.
Simons cobbled together office supplies and alumni records and set up shop in a supply closet in Building 1, the only space available.
"You had to turn sideways to squeeze past the desk and get to the chair, and guests had to sit in the hallway," says Simons, now associate vice president for special projects.
Simons is known for personally keeping in touch with the university's earliest alumni, including those who spent two years in Pomona before going to San Luis Obispo to complete their degree.
"You need to let people know you care," he says. "The most successful people in advancement have a handle on human relationships."
Much has changed in advancement over the years, but one constant has been the personal touch.
Cal Poly Pomona's people-centric culture was a major factor in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's decision to award the $42 million challenge grant.
President Ortiz says he is confident that alumni and supporters will answer the challenge.
"Cal Poly Pomona is a special place," he says. "This is a place that prepares students for their career -- that prepares them for life -- in a way few other institutions do.
"The Kellogg gift is a call to action to friends and alumni who recognize that education is the key to California's future. We're up for the challenge."