President Soraya M. Coley and her husband have boldly declared their belief and commitment in Cal Poly Pomona’s mission by establishing the Ron and Soraya Coley Endowment Fund, pledging $100,000 to it.
The Coleys have been a part of the university’s polytechnic culture for barely a year, but have quickly embraced the academic mission and joined the list of Cal Poly Pomona “possibility-makers.”
Their intention to create an endowment was touched upon in Coley’s Investiture address on Feb. 5 in which she lauded the more than 8,200 gifts thousands of individuals and organizations gave to Cal Poly Pomona last year to “pay it forward.”
“As rich as our legacy is, we cannot afford to rest on our achievements. We recognize that the work we do here matters,” Coley says. “I believe we have an imperative to help others see the possibility of achieving the impossible.”
While the endowment aims to benefit students, faculty and staff, the specifics for its use will be determined at a later date. The fund will be built over a period of several years.
“Soraya and Ron Coley join a special group of donors who have created endowed funds at Cal Poly Pomona,” says Bedford McIntosh, vice president of the Division of University Advancement. “This is a strong statement about what this university means to her. It is not uncommon to see endowments created to honor presidents as they retire, but for a president to step up with such a commitment at the beginning of her time on campus is rare. It is a wonderful instance of leadership by example.”
The announcement of the endowment was applauded by the campus community.
“One thing I wasn’t expecting to hear was the news about a gift for endowment, which I think was an amazing touch,” says Julian Herrera, president of Associated Students Inc. “I’m not surprised. She loves students, she loves giving back to the community. That’s one of the ways that she’ll be doing that.”
A similar sentiment was echoed by another attendee at the ceremony.
“President Coley was an instant Bronco the moment she arrived on this campus. This generous gift not only demonstrates her deep commitment to and belief in Cal Poly Pomona and all that it embodies, but it is also characteristic of President Coley’s style of leading by example,” said Sep Eskandari, chair of the Academic Senate. “This gift inspires and energizes all of us to work together and in a collaborative manner to build on Cal Poly Pomona’s already excellent traditions to better serve our students, faculty, staff, and the community.”
Coley’s path to the presidency from her upbringing in the legally segregated South was marked by challenges that shaped her passion to uplift others. Cal Poly Pomona has become a beacon for first-generation college students like her.
Coley came to Cal Poly Pomona from CSU Bakersfield, where she served as provost and vice president for academic affairs from 2005 to 2014. She also served as interim vice president for university advancement from 2011 to 2012. At Bakersfield, her successes include securing public and private funding to expand science, technology, engineering and math programs, as well as extending outreach to women and minority students.
She has been successful in her administrative roles, serving as Cal State Fullerton’s dean of the College of Human Development & Community Service, administrative fellow in the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and professor and department chair for the Human Services Department. She was the system-wide provost and vice president for academic affairs at Alliant International University from 2001 to 2003.
Coley’s husband, Ron, has been the vice chancellor for business and administrative services at UC Riverside since July 2014.
“Wherever Ron and I lived, we tried to give back through our time and resources. In spite of our humble beginnings, we came from a community that was committed to sharing whatever they had,” Coley says. “Ron being a retired Marine Corps officer and our not having children meant we wanted to do something for our new community at Cal Poly Pomona.”