Feb. 9, 2012Vol. 42, Issue 4

From the President's Desk

For the Cause of Education and Community

Related to this event, we will soon be receiving a report from our consultant on the University’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign that will provide us with guidance on the feasibility and prospects for this ambitious, but necessary, undertaking.

Although my convocation remarks do not focus on the campaign, they anticipate it. Because rooted in the recollection of our past and the celebration of our present are the elements that will enable our future. There is remarkable continuity in this timeline because, in so many respects, how we began as an institution, and how we invoke that awareness and example, will set our course for the kind of success we expect in the campaign ahead of us and, indeed, for all fundraising efforts at the University.

president paul zinggTo put it simply: we began with a gift and a challenge, and we have been sustained and defined ever since by them.

In 1887, with the competition raging among Redding, Red Bluff, and Chico to win a normal school in Northern California for their respective communities, a gift and a challenge made the difference in the happy outcome for us. Chico’s leading citizen, John Bidwell, stepped up and donated eight acres of his cherry orchard as a site for the school. But he did more than that. He coupled his gift with a message to the residents of the city. “Every citizen,” he said, “must consider it his duty to do everything he can for the cause of education and his community.”

Inspired by his example and responding to his call, Bidwell’s fellow citizens anteed up $10,000 (a quarter of a million dollars in today’s currency value) to augment the state legislature’s appropriation for the school. These developments proved decisive in gaining the unanimous recommendation of the committee charged with making the selection to locate the new school in Chico.

One hundred and twenty five years later, the legacy of Bidwell’s challenge and those initial gifts shape our identity and drive our future. We are now a place where the two dimensions of giving – that which gives back and that which gives forward – give both hope and cause to our work.

In our most recent gift-counting period, 2010-2011, we have tallied 25,500 gifts to the University, from over 14,000 individual donors, with a total value of gifts and pledges exceeding $7 million. Even though our enrollment ranks 13th among the campuses of the CSU, we rank in the top five for the total number of gifts and top three for the total number of alumni donors. Those other places with more gifts are significantly larger institutions than we are, with many more alumni from which to draw support.

So many of these gifts, whether from alumni, parents, or friends, are expressions of gratitude for what the University has meant to them and done for them. The wonderful generosity, for example, of Ed and Marion Floyd, whose gift is among the largest in our history and whose story is celebrated in the most recent issue of Chico Statements, flowed from their appreciation of the people and services of our campus which made their relatively short time in Chico so enjoyable and their lives more comfortable before their passing.

So many other gifts anticipate the positive consequences of support because the donors believe that we will be wise and faithful stewards of their trust. These gifts encourage our endeavors and enable them. They form a bond with the University that harkens to the high expectations that Bidwell and his contemporaries had for the normal school and its role in serving the needs of Chico and the North State. Whether supporting an opportunity for a student to come to Chico State, the research of a faculty member, a community resource like the Gateway Science Museum, the wide-ranging services of CAVE, or countless other worthy causes, these gifts remind us of the qualities that we hope will always mark our students and define our institution.

And that, perhaps, will be the most important consequence of achieving a deep culture of giving at our university. For the example of giving fosters a habit of giving and that underscores our goal not only to ensure that our students reap great personal benefits from their time with us, but that they also contribute to the larger public good. This is the obligation and the measure of service that we proclaim in our University’s Values Statement.

We know that our alumni, as so many have done already, will make important contributions to growing our economy, fostering a cleaner environment, enabling a healthier population, building stronger local and regional communities, supporting social justice, and engaging in so many other endeavors that strengthen both our social fabric and our democracy. This is the essence of giving forward, and it binds our work as much as it motivates our donors.

Paul J. Zingg

Postscript: If you did not have a chance to attend the convocation on Tuesday, Feb. 7, you can read the address on my website (pdf).

(Photo courtesy of Frank Rebelo)