Campus administrators discuss allocation of historic $40M donation

By Caden Merrill, Aug. 31, 2021

Cal Poly Pomona President Soraya Coley announced in June that philanthropist and novelist MacKenzie Scott donated $40 million to the university — the largest individual donation in CPP history.

The donation, part of Scott’s $2.74 billion contribution to 286 organizations, is expected to mostly fund aspects of Coley’s Strategic Plan for the univeristy. Acting as a quasi-endownment for the campus, $32 million of the gift is allocated to exclusively fund the plan’s iniatives.

“[President Coley] is committed to focusing this gift on supporting the Strategic Plan,” Vice President for University Advancement Dan Montplaisir said. “The Strategic Plan is really all about supporting student success, eliminating equity gaps, enhancing student learning, expanding more hands-on polytechnic experiences and also diversifying the faculty.”

CPP’s Strategic Plan, first launched in 2017, outlines the university’s overarching goals for the eight-year period from 2017 to 2025. Among the plan’s measurable goals for students are increased graduation rates, the elimination of equity gaps in graduation and more student involvement in research and other activities.

Montplaisir added that Scott’s donation is significant, not only in its largesse, but also in the flexibility it allows in spending.

“What’s so special about this gift is that most donations come very designated or very prescriptive,” said Montplaisir. “If you think about money from the state, it all comes exactly into a category of how you have to spend it. Really, the amazing part of this contribution that MacKenzie has supported is this idea of allowing the university’s leadership to be able to direct the funds over a period of time where they’re most needed.”

Among these destinations, Montplaisir pointed specifically to the university’s I Am First program, the Bronco Dreamers Resource Center and the Renaissance Scholars program as examples of initiatives where more funding is necessary.

The remaining $8 million, according to Montplaisir, will serve to fund Coley’s Presidential Excellence fund. While still in its infancy, this fund will allow Coley and her leadership to decide where and how to invest in the university over the next three years. It could be invested in both existing and new university programs. In Montplaisir’s words, it acts as a “holding fund.”

Despite the donation’s great sum, there is some doubt for students like Edwin Williams, a chemical engineering student, about the individual impact of the gift.

“I think it will go into the school’s endowment, and we won’t actually see much of the money,” said Williams. “So, the effect will be small for individual students but be beneficial cumulatively.”

While particular details of how the donation may fund student programs and clubs is not known, Dean of Students Jonathan Grady believes as long as the funds are allocated chiefly toward students as intended, they will be put to good use.

“It is my understanding that there will be specific plans constructed as it relates to the donation,” Grady said. “I look forward to the planning and conversations on figuring out the best way to utilize the funding to the benefit of our students.”

As expressed by Coley in her June statement, the university sees the contribution as a turning point for the campus.

“This historic contribution will provide permanent and ongoing support for future generations of Broncos,” Coley said. “Ms. Scott’s generosity will undoubtedly change many lives across Cal Poly Pomona, as well within our communities and families in our region beyond.”

Scott’s official announcement of her contribution, as well as the complete list of the 286 organizations she donated to, can be found on Scott’s Medium page.

Feature image by Nicolas Hernandez | The Poly Post

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