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Campus and Community

Work on multidisciplinary complex begins, first two donations announced in fundraising campaign

Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong stands onstage.

The Power of Doing: The Campaign for Learn by Doing has taken the first major steps of its public phase as Cal Poly has begun work on a multidisciplinary complex and announced two major donations totaling $60 million.

Cal Poly launched the capital campaign — the largest fundraising initiative in university history, with a goal of $700 million by 2021 — in support of the university’s signature hands-on learning approach. Today the university announced the first two gifts of the initiative’s public phase:

— A $10 million donation from Jim and Suzanne Boswell and the James G. Boswell Foundation to transform Cal Poly's agricultural landscape and create a lasting legacy for students by constructing a new plant sciences building; and

— A $50 million planned gift from an anonymous donor, to be used generally in support of student success and Learn by Doing.

The university already had raised over $556 million from more than 51,000 donors before marking the launch of the campaign’s public phase May 3 and announcing the two newest gifts.

“The Power of Doing already is a testament to the passion and dedication of thousands of Cal Poly alumni and supporters to ensuring that Learn by Doing thrives on this campus always,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong. “We are beyond excited to announce this campaign and the progress it has been built upon. These latest steps are further catalysts that will help galvanize our university community and launch the Campaign for Learn by Doing beyond its goal.”

The $10 million gift from Jim and Suzanne Boswell and the James G. Boswell Foundation was made in honor of the family’s longtime friend and colleague George Wurzel and will unite multiple disciplines to focus and enhance work in plant, earth and soil sciences along with agricultural engineering in one state-of-the-art complex. The George Wurzel Plant Sciences Building will include classrooms and labs and will be adjacent to greenhouses, processing facilities and a farmers’ market. The new facility will expand Learn by Doing opportunities for students and provide improved technologies for faculty and staff.

The $50 million anonymous donation is a planned gift aimed at general support for the university’s Learn by Doing programs.

In addition, on May 3, the university moved forward with work on what will be a one of the centerpiece facilities on campus: the William and Linda Frost Center for Research and Innovation (name pending CSU Board of Trustees approval). The building will also be home to the Boswell Ag Tech Center. A groundbreaking ceremony marked the start of work on the complex (the project formerly referred to as the Science and Agriculture Teaching and Research Center)

The four-story, 102,000-square-foot complex will feature configurable classrooms, hands-on learning programs and cutting-edge laboratory space dedicated to undergraduate research for the College of Science and Mathematics; the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences; and the College of Liberal Arts. The complex will also include conference rooms and faculty offices.

Donations already made to the university during the quiet phase of The Power of Doing campaign are fueling construction of the $125 million project. The lead gift is $30 million from William and Linda Frost to the College of Science & Mathematics (part of their larger, historic $110 million gift to Cal Poly). 

The more than 1,000 undergraduate College of Science & Mathematics students who engage in faculty-mentored research each year will utilize this new space to learn and work side-by-side with professors. The facility will improve an already top undergraduate research program by giving more students access to state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment. These facilities will allow students to discover answers to real-world questions and make contributions to scientific and mathematical knowledge.

The College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences’ portion of the project will enable research and discovery to help train tomorrow's leaders in food innovation.

Support has been secured from industry partners including The James G. Boswell Foundation, The Otis Booth Foundation, Mike and Suzy Leprino, the Oreggia Family Foundation, and Taylor Fresh Foods, Inc. 

The center will also include the new Jack and Felicia Cashin Expressive Technology Studios after a $2 million gift to the College of Liberal Arts by Jack and Felicia Cashin. The studios will be home to students majoring in Liberal Arts and Engineering Studies (LAES); students enrolled in science, technology and society minors; and any student who is looking for a place to collaborate at the intersection of art, humanities, and technology.

“We are deeply grateful to each Cal Poly donor whose support for this project will be augmented with CSU funding to make this multidisciplinary complex a reality,” Armstrong said.

“This progress following so quickly on the heels of the announcement of our campaign shows that the support for The Power of Doing is strong and the momentum is high. We look forward to connecting with more of our extended Cal Poly family to find more ways to support Learn by Doing and student success.”