President Michael Ortiz encouraged faculty and staff Monday to honor the achievements others have made in building Cal Poly Pomona in the past 75 years and to help shape the university’s legacy for future generations.
Speaking at the annual Convocation, Ortiz said a minor stroke he suffered over the summer gave him perspective and lessons that can be applied to the 75th anniversary celebration.
“We can’t take for granted the educational mission that has brought us all together. We can’t take for granted the intensely hard work that tens of thousands of people have invested into making this university what it is today,” the president said. “No one combines excellence, affordability and diversity as we do. We are the hallmark. We are the model. And that is worth celebrating.”
The university is already building for the future, having raised $132 million in its Campaign for Cal Poly Pomona. The campaign seeks to raise $150 million to support hands-on learning opportunities for students, prepare them for the workplace, increase research and scholarship opportunities, and maintain access to higher education for underrepresented communities.
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation gave $42 million toward the campaign, which is the largest donation ever given to a CSU. Sterling Speirn, the foundation’s president and CEO, told the Convocation audience that the gift renewed the commitment that W.K. Kellogg made toward creating Cal Poly Pomona.
“We’re delighted to acknowledge your leadership and your commitment to that future, and we hope that campaign will prove to be ultimately successful and will position Cal Poly in a way that other California public universities are not,” he said.
Cal Poly Pomona suffered through six years of state funding cuts to public higher education, Ortiz said. Although the fiscal climate has improved in the past year, the university is still working with just two-thirds of the state funding it received a decade ago.
The president praised faculty and staff for their efforts during the funding crunch.
“You have provided the courses, programs, and services to help support the student experience. With your hard work, dedication and diligence, we graduated 4,650 students last year,” Ortiz said. “We launched new services for veterans. We expanded student success programs. We built an environment in which our students can thrive.”
Despite the loss in funding, Cal Poly Pomona still produces quality, work-ready graduates, Ortiz said. At mid-career, they earn more than graduates from almost all CSU campuses as well as nationally known colleges such as Purdue, Rutgers and the University of Massachusetts.
Higher education is critical not just for students’ success, but also the country and the world, the president added.
“We are educating diverse men and women who see beyond our neighborhoods and cities. They understand the complex and increasingly globalized communities in which they will function and lead,” he said. “That is who we are. We are the life force for a free economy and a free people.”
Faculty and staff have a stake in their students’ future, Ortiz added. He encouraged them to consider participating in a charitable giving campaign to benefit the university. Information about the campaign will be available later this fall.
Convocation also featured a slideshow looking back at Cal Poly Pomona’s 75-year history. Music alumnus Michael Jung performed on a Steinway & Sons piano that highlighted an initiative to make the university the first in the UC and CSU systems to use Steinways exclusively.
MediaVision also produced a 75th anniversary video, “Join Us,” that celebrated the university’s history and looked to its future.
Ortiz and Provost Marten den Boer presented the George P. Hart Award to Patricia de Freitas, a professor in the College of Education & Integrative Studies. The award recognizes faculty members who are regarded as role models and leaders on campus and in the community.
(Photo: President Michael Ortiz and Sterling Speirn, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, pose at Convocation with Tony the Tiger and Billy Bronco.)