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Campus and Community

Cal Poly Completes Most Successful Fundraising Campaign in CSU History

President Armstrong, onstage at a donor event in front of a green and gold backdrop, claps with a group of university supports behind him
Written By Matt Lazier

Cal Poly is officially announcing the successful completion of its comprehensive philanthropic campaign. The Power of Doing: The Campaign for Learn by Doing raised more than $832 million, the largest fundraising initiative in university and CSU history.

Nearly 75,000 alumni, parents and community members contributed to the record-breaking total. Nearly half of this support is in the form of bequest commitments and will continue to support students far into the future. 

The sun rises over cranes and other heavy machinery at a construction site on campus.
Ongoing construction at the new, largely donor-funded William and Linda Frost Center for Research and Innovation, which will serve students from three colleges at Cal Poly. Photo by Joe Johnston.

Private donations raised in 2020 alone totaled more than $156 million, making this fundraising year the most successful on record for Cal Poly — a testament to the value that alumni and donors place on a Learn by Doing education for students. 

“Over the span of this campaign, many demonstrated their support of Cal Poly; alumni, parents, friends, Foundation Board members, donors, and so many others,” said William H. Swanson, chair of the Cal Poly Foundation board and an industrial engineering alumnus. “The legacy of this campaign will be enriched support for student success and the ability to secure Learn by Doing for future generations.”

While the campaign’s legacy will improve student experiences for years to come, it is already having a direct impact on campus.

“The scholarship support I received provided me with exceptional and unique opportunities in science and research,” said third-year biochemistry student Byungcheol So, a recipient of donor funding through the Dignity Health Cal Poly Scholarship and the Frost Scholarship. 

Many students are directly supported by donors through scholarships. Others will benefit from programs and learning spaces gifted by donors. 

A man in a Cal Poly windbreaker stands in front of a sand-covered beach volleyball court while young women in tracksuits practice in the background
Cal Poly Foundation board chair William Swanson at a February practice session on the new Mustang Beach Volleyball Complex. Photo by Joe Johnston.​

"I am super excited for our new facility," said fourth-year beach volleyball player Emily Sonny. "It will make practices and matches more convenient for us as a team and help Cal Poly beach volleyball make an even bigger name for itself than it already has."

The resources raised during the campaign have already benefited programs and impacted students’ lives, careers and Learn by Doing experiences, with a focus on empowering students, excellence and innovation.

“It is inspiring to see our community, friends, family and alumni come together to make this dream a reality,” said Jean Dodson Peterson, a professor in the Wine and Viticulture Department, whose program will be using the soon-to-be-completed and donor-funded JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture. “These cutting-edge facilities will provide a firm foundation for our student to innovate and inspire future generations. The center provides a warm and welcoming place for the exchange of ideas and serves to support the academic endeavors of our students and faculty as they strive to engage in lifelong learning.” 

Moving forward, Cal Poly will use the donor funds to offer more scholarship opportunities, giving more students access to a Cal Poly education; outfit instructional and lab spaces with state-of-the-art equipment, enhancing research and interdisciplinary collaborations between students, faculty and industry partners; provide more student and faculty stipends for research and Learn by Doing projects; fund initiatives aimed to increase diversity, inclusion and student well-being; enable student-athletes to practice and compete at a higher level in facilities designed to meet their needs; and benefit the entire community of students, faculty and staff with improved facilities that enable the university to continue providing a unique polytechnic education.

“With the support of our donors, we’re able to offer even more of the unique Learn by Doing opportunities that Cal Poly is known for and that our students and alumni credit as integral to their success,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “It is hard to overstate the impact this will have on the future of Cal Poly and our students.”

Photo above: President Armstrong on stage with Cal Poly supporters at a campaign kickoff event in 2019. Photo by Brittany App.