Over the years, Art and Sarah Ludwick have had many titles: executive, benefactor, innovator, advocate, volunteer. They will soon add another: doctor.
Cal Poly Pomona will award honorary degrees to the Ludwicks during graduation ceremonies this spring in recognition of their individual achievements, their philanthropic work and their many contributions to the university.
“I cannot think of two more deserving individuals than Art and Sarah,” says university President Michael Ortiz. “They have independently influenced the social and physical landscape of the greater San Gabriel Valley, making a difference in the lives of countless people. Cal Poly Pomona is honored to include them in our extended family, and I am privileged to call them friends.”
The awarding of honorary doctorates to a couple is extremely rare in academia, and it is a first for Cal Poly Pomona. The CSU Board of Trustees assesses each nominee based on rigorous criteria.
“All persons nominated for California State University honorary degrees are evaluated as individuals for what they have contributed to the university, the state, the nation and humanity at large,” says State University Dean Christine Mallon of the CSU Chancellor’s Office. “The separate achievements of Art and Sarah Ludwick serve as examples of outstanding and extraordinary commitment to Cal Poly Pomona, and the Ludwicks each deserve this distinguished recognition.”
The Ludwicks say they are humbled by the honor.
“We’re in rarefied air,” Art Ludwick says. “We’re both very appreciative of the honor, and it’s especially rewarding because our interests and approaches are so different.”
An engineer by education, he looks at the big picture and takes a results-oriented approach to challenges. Sarah, on the other hand, enjoys helping people on an individual basis, such as Renaissance Scholars – Cal Poly Pomona students who recently left the foster care system.
“Our core values are similar, but not necessarily the ways we express them,” Sarah says. “Art brings a pragmatic business approach that’s also very humanitarian. I have always sought to work with all segments of society, with all age groups, and I tend to look at things that are less tangible.”
Before retiring, Art held senior positions at Rain Bird, their family-owned company known for its iconic sprinkler and numerous other irrigation innovations. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of Citrus Valley Health Partners hospital group and the Los Angeles County Fair Association.
Sarah, who earned her master’s degree in child development, has long overseen the Ludwick Family Foundation, chaired the YWCA San Gabriel Valley Women of Achievement event, served on the board of directors of Foothill Presbyterian Hospital, and currently serves at Fairplex on the Child Development Center board and the steering committee for the Career and Technical Education Center.
Sarah has served as president of the University Educational Trust at Cal Poly Pomona and is on the board of directors of the university’s Partners in Education Program. Art was instrumental in launching Rain Bird BioTrek, which includes the Rain Bird Rainforest Learning Center on campus.
“Opposites attract, and we’re opposites,” Sarah says.
Their complementary approach to philanthropy extends far beyond Cal Poly Pomona. The emergency care pavilion at Foothill Presbyterian Hospital in Glendora, their hometown, bears their name, and they were the driving force in preserving a historic home from destruction and turning it into a senior center named in honor of Sarah’s parents. They also worked with the City of San Luis Obispo to create a city recreation facility named in honor of Art’s parents. They have given generously to Citrus College and the University of La Verne. Their foundation has aided charities throughout the United States. And Sarah, inducted into the Los Angeles County Fair Association Hall of Fame in 2008, has helped raise more than $1 million for the Fairplex Child Development Center.
Though neither is an alumnus, their fondness for Cal Poly Pomona is palpable.
“We have a real appreciation for the university’s learn-by-doing concept,” Art says. “We love working with the faculty and staff because they’re so dedicated to the college and the students. Every experience here has been a joy for us.”
During graduation ceremonies in June, Art will be honored by the College of Science, and Sarah by the College of Agriculture. Both have words of advice and encouragement for those who will receive diplomas:
“Your life is not going to be just like your parents’,” Sarah says. “You’re going to have to be patient, you’ll need to look at more options and perhaps seek advice from a variety of people so you can make good choices.”
“Never give up,” Art says. “Those who work hard and develop their skills will be the best prepared when we come out of these trying times. And we will come out of them. … And don’t forget the help you received when you were a student. Give back. Take care of each other.”