Cal State Northridge President Jolene Koester announced today that the university has received a $5 million gift from an anonymous donor who asked that the money be used for scholarships and student assistance.
University officials said the gift will be used to create the Scottsdale Endowment, which will support the university’s Northridge Scholarship Program, specifically high-achieving freshmen. The name of the endowment comes from the location of the bank in Scottsdale, Ariz., that issued the check.
“The gift of $5 million to the university is an affirmation that Cal State Northridge has matured as an institution. As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, I’m pleased to say we are experiencing more and more the impact of support from alumni and friends who are grateful for what Cal State Northridge has meant in their lives,” Koester said. “As a university, we pledge to be good stewards of these funds. In this case, we will use them to support scholarships and student success.
“Our theme for the anniversary is ‘50 years of life changing opportunity,’ ” she continued. “Endowing this generous gift will ensure that our promise to future generations to continue to provide life changing opportunity continues.”
The details of the endowment are still being worked out, but university officials said it would benefit the Northridge Scholarship Program. In particular, officials said the endowment will support need-based scholarships for incoming freshmen who have been identified as high achieving.
CSUN’s Vice President of University Advancement Vance Peterson pointed out that demand for financial aid and scholarship support for Northridge students has increased by more than 160 percent in the past year alone.
“I hope the donor realizes what a huge, huge difference his or her gift will make in the lives of our students,” Peterson said. “This can literally mean the difference between attending or not attending college for some of our students.”
Peterson said he was a “little skeptical” when his office received a call earlier this summer from a bank official in Scottsdale stating he represented a client who wanted to “make a large gift” to the university.
The bank official wanted to know how he should make out the check. Peterson told him to make it out to the California State University, Northridge Foundation. When the caller said the gift would be for $5 million, there were a few seconds of stunned silence before the conversation continued.
“I have to admit I had some doubts about whether the offer was real,” Peterson said. “This was the first time in nearly 30 years of fundraising in higher education that I had experienced the wonderful and very humbling feeling of such pure philanthropy.”
The bank official said the check would arrive in about a week. When nothing arrived a few days after the conversation, Peterson said he didn’t think much of it. A few days later, however, an envelope arrived at the university in the regular mail containing a cover letter from the bank, a cashier’s check for $5 million, and a brief note explaining that the anonymous donor wanted the money to be used for “scholarships and student assistance.”
Peterson called the gift an example of the “highest and purest” form of philanthropy.
“Philanthropy means love of humankind,” Peterson said, “and one of its purest forms is when the donor does not know the recipient and the recipient does not know the donor.”