Last week, we honored our distinguished alumni at the Monty Awards. This year’s awards were a little different. We began the evening with a reception in the Lee and Frank Goldberg Courtyard of the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union and then moved to the Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre for a rock concert by The Mighty Untouchables. I told you it was different. Even the president got rid of the tie.
One thing, however, was the same. The extraordinary achievements of our honorees testify to the renown and distinction our alumni bring to our university. Among our honorees were business leaders like Andy Esparza, Ziad Mansour, Ed Marsh, and Mike Pack, who have built and led successful corporations and have been extraordinarily generous to our university. The creative arts were well-represented. Songwriter Jack Tempchin and Hollywood media executive Mort Marcus brought a touch of celebrity to the ceremony. Our tradition of service was also highlighted with the honoring of Jean Landis’ extraordinary service to our country and Sam Ciccati’s contributions to public higher education. Last, but certainly not least, Associate Vice President Sandra Cook and alumnus Keith Harris were recognized for their exceptional service in advancing the university. It was a great night.
The night also displayed the essential role our alumni play in supporting the future of San Diego State. In an era in which state support and family resources are limited, the philanthropic support of our alumni is the key to continuing our tradition of excellence. While the history of alumni giving to public universities in California has been limited, our alumni have, over the last eight years, met the challenge. We set a goal of raising $500 million in our first comprehensive fundraising campaign, and thanks to the generous support of our alumni and community supporters, The Campaign for SDSU exceeded our initial goal last year and we raised our goal to $750 million. As of today, the campaign has raised over $630 million.
The best news is that these efforts are just the start. The potential impact that our over 300,000 alumni can have on our university is extraordinary. As just one example, if every alumnus donated $100 per semester for student scholarships, we would have enough scholarship funding (over $60 million) to reduce the tuition of every student by over 50 percent. Thus, 55 years since the inception of California’s historic Master Plan for Higher Education, we can still realize its vision of quality education, but we must include our alumni as full partners to do so.
Our entire university is embracing this historic opportunity. We have created regional councils to bring together members of the Aztec family who reside throughout California and our nation. The Aztec Mentor Program is bringing alumni and community supporters together with today’s students. Internships and corporate visit days are providing opportunities for our alumni to guide our students in preparing for the work world, and the SDSU Strive crowdfunding site provides opportunities for every alumnus to support projects of special interest to them. Recent graduates and current students are also playing roles. Last year’s graduates created a $26,000 scholarship endowment, and this year 1,900 freshmen (with the help of 200 sophomores, juniors and seniors) raised $21,500 for scholarships before they had taken even a single class – a wonderful example of our theme that “Leadership Starts Here.”
I am certain we will succeed in our efforts to harness the extraordinary power and philanthropy of our alumni for the good of our university and our students. Anyone who has any doubt of this can simply look to the accomplishments of this year’s Monty Award winners to see the extraordinary things members of the Aztec family can achieve.