Sept. 16, 2013Vol. 44, Issue 1

More Than a Gift

Dan Giustina and Paul Zingg at an Aug. 22 news conference announcing Giustina's $2 million gift to the University. Photo by Phil Schermeister

Dan Giustina and Paul Zingg at an Aug. 22 news conference announcing Giustina's $2 million gift to the University. Photo by Phil Schermeister

In recent years, the University has been the beneficiary of some extraordinary gifts from our friends and supporters. Among the most noteworthy, these include:

  • $3.6 million trust gift from Marion Floyd to support nursing, the Passages elder care and services program, and student scholarships.
  • $3 million combination cash gift and bequest from Valene Smith to support the Valene Smith Anthropology Museum.
  • Over $2.6 million in cash gifts from our local Patrons group and the National Steering Committee to support our Concrete Industry Management Program.
  • $2.4 million bequest from David and Helen Lantis to support faculty endowed chairs.
  • $2.1 million capital project gift from Steve and Nancy Nettleton to support our baseball program.
  • $2.1 million from the Vernon and Marie Fish Trust to support agriculture and other programs.

Thus, it was not without precedent that the University announced last week Dan Giustina’s cash gift of $2 million to support scholarships for students in our College of Agriculture. Like the gifts noted above, Dan’s gift reflects enormous appreciation for what our University is achieving and deep trust that we will continue to excel in the education we offer our students and the service we provide our region and state.

No, not without precedent or connection to the spirit of these other wonderful gifts. But it was nonetheless distinctive in its story and purpose.

First, Dan is not a Chico State alum. He doesn’t even live in California. But he became familiar with our University through a friendship of over 40 years with members of Butte County’s famous Bell family.  That friendship took root with Tom Bell, who managed the Bell Ranch properties until his death in 1987.  Among these holdings was a parcel in southern Oregon, where Dan lived and ranched. Their friendship frequently brought Dan to Butte County and he came to appreciate their affection for the University and ties to the local community. Those ties, in fact, go back to 1889 when Tom Bell’s aunt, Ada, enrolled in the Normal School’s first class. And they included both of Tom’s sisters, Claudine (Class of 1926) and Helen (Class of 1937).

When the second of Tom Bell’s sisters passed away about a year ago, Dan began to consider a gift to the University that would honor the Bell family. But, first, he wanted to learn more about what we were accomplishing in order to ensure that his gift would be well-placed and purposed. Dan has a rich history of philanthropy supporting higher education at his alma mater, the University of Oregon. But the Bell family had piqued his interest in Chico State and he wanted to explore our story. Also, given his former position as President of the University of Oregon Foundation, Dan also wanted to be sure that Chico State had the expertise and track record to steward a gift wisely.

So, we did the right thing. We opened our University Foundation books and we introduced him to our students. The former assured him that we would provide solid and fiscally sound oversight to make sure his philanthropic goals would be met. And our students sealed the deal. They revealed to him not only a community of smart young people studying agriculture here, but students with a deep commitment to agriculture and extraordinary promise to develop as leaders in the industry. 

But, second, Dan wanted to do more than benefit students in the College of Agriculture. He recognized that in the special circumstances of his gift he had a chance to impact philanthropic support more broadly for the University. And right from the start of conversations with him, it was clear that he saw the transformational dimensions of this gift. Yes, a gift that had the potential to raise the level of excellence in the College of Agriculture. But also one that might raise awareness about the Chico State “story” in general and how it merited the attention of anyone interested in supporting the outstanding work of our colleges and universities. I was pleased to see that 649 people watched the announcement of Dan’s gift broadcast live on the Web, and another 833 clicked on the news release that day. Through one means or another, many people let us know they were excited about the gift and Chico State’s future.

So, through Dan Giustina’s gift, we have a beautiful tapestry within which are woven such strands as California history, the Bell family history, alumni loyalty, the mission of a public university, lasting friendships, great generosity, and a compelling vision.

Yes, an impressive gift amount. But so much more.

Thank you, Dan. You may be an Oregon Duck, but you exemplify the Wlldcat Way.

Paul J. Zingg


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