In Tough Economic Times Alumni Gifts Boost SDSU

Bob Payne ('55) donated $2.4 million to SDSU's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, which will be named for him.
In recent weeks, two alumni gifts to SDSU totaling more than $6 million have been announced.  The donations are the largest of the current fiscal year which ends in June.  Those gifts, along with an ambitious student scholarship campaign that has already exceeded its goal, are examples of how Aztec alumni are helping to make SDSU one of California’s top fundraising universities despite the financial hardships facing the state.   

Last month the university announced SDSU’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) will be renamed the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at San Diego State University, thanks to a $2.4 million gift from the L. Robert Payne and Patricia L. Payne Family Foundation. The gift, which is expected to be the catalyst for an eventual $8.5 million endowment for the school, is the latest in a string of generous donations by Bob Payne (’55), who also contributed to the new Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center.

Then came the revelation of a $4 million commitment to the SDSU Library from alumni Chuck (’59, ’64) and Robin (’61) Luby. The gift, which will come from their estate, was announced when the couple received a Monty Award April 24.  The Lubys have been active volunteers at SDSU for decades and Chuck is a past president of the SDSU Alumni Association.

(l-r) SDSU Interim Library Dean Jon Cawthorne with $4 million donors Robin ('61) and Chuck Luby ('59,'64) and SDSU President Stephen L. Weber at the 2010 Monty Awards.
“These gifts mean great things for the programs to which they are directed,” says Mary Ruth Carleton, vice president of SDSU’s Division of University Relations and Development. “I think with the economic situation being as tough as it has on the university, people know how much we need their support and so they’re making these extraordinary gifts at a time when you might not expect that.”


In fact, according to Carleton, just over ten months into the current fiscal year from July 1, 2009 to June 30 this year, SDSU is $5 million ahead of where it was last year in fundraising.  Bringing in almost $50 million last year, SDSU was the top fundraising institution in the CSU System and ninth among all California colleges and universities.  Here’s a list of the top ten as ranked by the Council for Aid to Education for the fiscal year 2009: 

InstitutionAmount Raised
Stanford University$640,107,311
University of Southern California$368,981,377
University of California, Los Angeles $351,688,985
University of California, San Francisco     
University of California, Berkeley$255,095,124
University of California, San Diego$100,906,449
University of California, Davis$92,507,131
University of California, Irvine$75,561,629
San Diego State University$49,174,846
California State University, Fresno$44,633,482


For San Diego State students, alumni generosity is critical.  Factoring in all related expenses, Carleton estimates the cost of attending SDSU now at upwards of $15,000 per year.  With the cost of a college education steadily increasing, the percentage of that cost covered by the state of California is going down.   

SDSU Vice President of University Relations and Development Mary Ruth Carleton.
“Before the last budget cut our state support was 28%, now it’s probably closer to a fourth (of what is needed to cover education costs),” says Carleton. “We get more money from our students in tuition than we do from the state and we get more money from grants and contracts than we do from the state.”

Fortunately, she believes, the public and especially alumni are starting to better appreciate the dynamics of education funding.

“Up until, I would say, two or three years ago people still assumed we got more money from the state than we actually do,” Carlton observes. “Now with the budget challenges in California and people seeing how much the state universities have been cut, they understand that we don’t have a lot of money from the state and they can see the greater need.  I think the fundraising message now is easier to get out there, but it’s still taking a while for people to think, ‘I can be a part of this fundraising.  I should participate in this.’”


One indicator that the message is getting through is the university’s Fuel Potential scholarship campaign.  Begun in July of 2009, its goal was to raise $5 million over one year for student scholarships.  As of last month, the amount raised was $5.1 million.  Of the 15,000 students who applied for SDSU scholarships this academic year, 1,360 received monetary awards.  

“I think education is about helping people live their dreams and be the best they can be and sometimes without financial support they can’t do that,” Carleton explains, “so it was really important we got that financial support for our students.”

San Diego State has managed to weather the economic storm through a variety of measures including enrollment and staff reductions, furloughs and various spending cutbacks – all without compromising the quality of an SDSU education.  With that accomplishment Carleton cites sound money management that maximizes resources and credits the efforts of administration, faculty and staff with emphasizing the importance of private fundraising for the university.  She also points to benevolent alumni who have heeded the university’s message.

“The message is we really need alums to be supportive at this time,” she says. “Everybody’s support is important, so we ask people to give what they can because each gift counts and each gift is going to make a difference for the future of the university they love.”

Make a donation to SDSU at