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Thursday, Jun 13, 2024

$270M: A Titan Success Story

Editor’s Note: Fram Virjee, president of Cal State Fullerton, and Greg Saks, vice president for University Advancement at Cal State Fullerton, wrote this article for the Orange County Business Journal.

How do you take the largest undergraduate university in California—
a university that is No. 1 in California for graduating women, No. 1 in
California for graduating Hispanic students and No. 3 in the nation for
graduating students of color—and position the school for even greater
What if that same university is also nationally ranked for its academic
programs, and produces half the teachers, nurses, accountants, and
engineers in the OC every year?
What if it is the home to nationally recognized faculty, and is an
economic engine for Southern California—producing a highly trained,
deeply experienced, and culturally agile workforce for the 21st
Our answer: Celebrate your strengths; embark upon, and then
successfully complete, the institution’s first-ever comprehensive
philanthropic campaign that raises funds, builds awareness, welcomes
back alumni, makes new friends, and builds a true and deep community
understanding of the value of California State University, Fullerton
and a concomitant culture of philanthropy to match.
“It Takes a Titan: The Campaign for Cal State Fullerton” has
been our definitive answer to these questions, and our passionate
response to this challenge.

The OC Alumni
While the state of California provides fundamental financial support
for our beloved university, in truth, that support presents a bare
minimum. We rely on tuition, which has had only one increase in the
past 11 years. The budget is so tight that if we want to do anything extra
like fund new buildings or increase our scholarships or add to our
endowments, we must seek other means such as fundraising.
It is only through alternative sources—such as philanthropic
investment—that Cal State Fullerton can provide its students with an
extraordinary educational experience in and out of the classroom; an
educational experience that prepares the workforce and develops
civically engaged leaders for Orange County.
How important is this? What is CSUF’s impact? Consider this: 80%
of our 325,000 alumni live and work within 50 miles of our campus.
An investment in Cal State Fullerton is an investment in Orange
County, as we prepare the employees, executives, civic leaders, and
taxpayers to build a vibrant community, today and tomorrow.
Why a “comprehensive” campaign? With this campaign we sought
and found a call to action; a clarion call sounding the quality, and
irreplaceable necessity of CSUF and all it does for our community.
Through this campaign we sought and obtained the focus of
thousands of donors—alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students,
community members, foundations, and corporations—a collaborative
comingling of the Titan Family; of a community, coming together to
raise more than $270 million. Through a critical review of campus and
community needs, CSUF developed as its priorities the enhancement
of academic innovation, empowering students, transforming campus
structures, and enriching the greater external community. These
priorities anchored the work of our “It Takes a Titan” campaign.

Unprecedented Challenges
Looking back, the journey toward the successful completion of this
campaign was no simple matter.
In March 2020, we launched our first-ever fundraising campaign
with an initial aspirational goal of $175 million. Then we increased it
to $200 million, and concurrently shared a set of equally aspirational
auxiliary goals that would build capacity and a culture of philanthropy
within the Titan Family.
And then the pandemic hit.
Not to worry. We are the Titan Family. During one of the most trying
times in our collective history, we pressed on, focusing on our twin
north stars—the health and safety of all Titans and unobstructed
pathways to degrees—including raising over $600,000 in emergency
funds for students hit hardest by the pandemic. Through the deep-seated
generosity of thousands of donors, the campaign continued to make
progress, reaching 90% of our $200 million goal in the spring of 2021.
And then something remarkable happened.

The Miracle
In June 2021, Cal State Fullerton received word of a $40 million
legacy gift from MacKenzie Scott. This gift is a testament to the
transformational work of the university, and the collaborative efforts
of our students and the greater community. Emboldened, the campus
increased our goal yet again, this time to raising $250 million by the
close of 2022.
The result of this bold and ambitious effort? The university blew past
the goal and raised an astonishing $270 million, and in so doing, also
surpassed all set milestones for our auxiliary metrics, such as number
of donors, alumni donors, and planned gifts. An extraordinary example
of the investment worthiness of our students and generosity of the Titan

Reflection and Thank You
Today, reflecting on the campaign, what comes to mind are the
stories of students directly impacted by these gifts—students who
gained confidence, discovered their passions, and developed the skills
needed to be leaders in the county, nation, and world.
And to come full circle, that is what the “It Takes a Titan” campaign
has been about from launch to completion: empowering our students
to make a difference in Orange County and beyond.
To the thousands of individuals that made gifts to support our
students and this effort, thank you for being the Titans it takes! We are
incredibly grateful to our supporters, who ensure that Cal State
Fullerton’s work will continue for many, many years.

By the Numbers
■ $270 million — Total raised for the “It Takes a Titan”
■ $87 million — In planned giving commitments.
■ 145,704 — Number of gifts to the campaign.
■ 71,396 — Number of individual donors.
■ 42,178 — Number of alumni donors.
■ $20.7 million — Total awarded in scholarships.
■ $34 million — Total invested by corporations.
■ $78.3 million — Endowment increase during campaign (as
of June 2022).
■ $104.5 million—Total increase in assets of Philanthropic
Foundation, which currently has $186.6 million as of Dec. 31.

Notable Gifts
■ $40 million unrestricted gift from philanthropist
MacKenzie Scott to support “institutions successfully
educating students who come from communities that have
been chronically underserved.”
■ $10 million from longtime supporters Nicholas and Lee
Begovich to advance gravitational-wave, engineering and
computer science research.
■ $4 million bequest from alumnus Brian Rennie and wife,
Lori, to support desert science studies, conservation and
climate change research.
■ $1.5 million planned gift from alumni Bill and Paula
Purpura to be split between the College of Business and
Economics and the College of Engineering and Computer
■ $1 million gift from alumnus Terry Giles to benefit
CSUF’s Center for Leadership in the College of Business
and Economics.

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Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.

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