For alumna Mardis Newman-Jackson, the decision to come to Cal Poly Pomona still serves as a touchstone that the entrepreneur draws upon when she is unsure about a decision.
The founder of Options in Design, Inc., a Paramount-based commercial furniture rehabilitation company said it’s a choice she reflects upon quite a bit, even 45 years later.
“I often think about how at 17, I had the wherewithal to make the best college choice for myself with the best program, geographical area and cost,” said Newman-Jackson (’80, business administration), a San Gabriel Valley native. It’s a great university. I am really proud to say I graduated from Cal Poly Pomona. It’s one of the soundest decisions I have ever made.”
About a decade after graduating and starting her career, she made another decision she relishes — getting involved with the university.
After learning that the university isn’t fully funded by the state, Newman-Jackson began making annual contributions. She purchased a bench in honor of her faculty mentor when the new College of Business Administration building was constructed. She has supported the college’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which allows accounting students to learn by doing real tax returns and provide that service for free for members of the community who have limited means, and three years ago, she became a member of the President’s Circle donor group, currently serving as its chair.
Newman-Jackson credits her mentor, the late Business Professor Warren Webber, for reconnecting her with Cal Poly Pomona.
“To be honest, I had never really thought about it before,” she said. “I didn’t realize your university experience could continue for a lifetime by getting involved and giving back.”
Some alumni may hear about large donations and feel intimidated by that, but Newman-Jackson wants her fellow Broncos to know that any donation — large or small — can make a significant impact on student success.
“Any amount that you give is so needed for all of the services that go on at Cal Poly Pomona,” she said. “It’s not a competition. It’s about giving back.”
A Celebration of Support
Cal Poly Pomona recently recognized the commitment and dedication of donors like Newman-Jackson at the Celebration of Support reception on March 23 at the historic Kellogg House Pomona.
Diane Miller, chair of the Cal Poly Pomona Philanthropic Foundation board, thanked the members of the President’s Circle for providing gifts of $2,500 or more annually, as well as the Founders’ Society members who have given cumulative gifts of $250,000 or more. The Founders’ Society has 124 members, individuals and organizations, and the President’s Circle has 294 households as members.
“I want to extend my appreciation to each of you for your generosity to the university,” Miller said. “Every gift provides another opportunity for our students. We cannot thank you enough.”
In 2022, members’ donations launched the Rose Float Lab and Design Complex, created 40 new scholarships, established new programs such as the Singelyn Graduate School of Business Administration, and created two new endowed scholarships from Mike and Bridget Beckage for Women in Science and Engineering and student teachers in the Partners in Education program.
The celebratory event also recognized the 120 members of the Kellogg Voorhis Legacy Society, who have made plans to support the university through bequests and estate planning.
During the event, students representing a variety of campus organizations and co-curricular activities demonstrated how philanthropy augments Cal Poly Pomona’s polytechnic mission. President’s Scholar Hailey Peterson, an interpersonal communication senior, shared her personal story of navigating health challenges on the road to academic success. Students from the Bronco Racing Baja SAE team showed off their student-built race car while student clarinetist Christian Solis and Mariachi Los Broncos serenaded the crowd. Students from sheCodes and the Apparel Merchandising and Management Association also set up booths at the event to highlight their projects.
The Impact of Giving
Graduating biology senior Diana Aguilar-Cruz was one of the recipients of the 2022-23 President’s Scholar awards, which includes a $3,500 scholarship, funds made possible with donor support.
The prestigious President’s Scholars program was established in 1983 and recognizes exceptional student achievement for 25 students annually. Recipients must have a GPA of 3.5 or above and scholars are also awarded based on co-curricular excellence, personal interviews, letters of recommendations and their application essay.
Diana Aguilar-Cruz, one of the 2022-23 scholars, is not only active in on-campus organizations and programs such as Achieve Scholars, Associated Students, Inc., the Science Educational Enhancement Services (SEES) program and the Pre-Medicine Student Association, she also was appointed 2022-23 student trustee for the California State University system.
As an undocumented student who moved to the United States from Mexico City as a teen, the scholarships she can qualify for are limited. The President’s Scholar award has helped the aspiring pediatric neurosurgeon cover the cost of tuition and fees, as well as pay for parking, materials she needed for classes and her graduate school applications.
However, it’s not just about the money, Aguilar-Cruz said.
“It’s the value something like being a President’s Scholar brings,” she said. “It’s about the honor of being recognized. I received a medal. I wear it to presidential investitures, and I can wear it at Commencement. It allows me to bring pride to CPP.”
Paying it Forward
Pride in Cal Poly Pomona and a deep-seated passion for giving back is what fuels alumna Melissa Demirci.
Demirci (’10, civil engineering) is a principal and engineer at Transtech, a municipal consulting firm her father founded in 1989. To celebrate the company’s 30th anniversary, Demirci established the Transtech Engineers Scholarship Program for Cal Poly Pomona students interested in pursuing careers in engineering, especially women and those from underrepresented communities. A total of $15,000 — five $3,000 scholarships — is awarded each year.
Supporting underserved communities is part of the company’s mission, and it’s also deeply personal for Demirci, who loves to volunteer and mentor youth. Transtech doesn’t just come to a city to do business. The firm also gets involved in youth programs, scholarships and community activities that cities and school districts offer to their residents, Demirci said.
“We love giving back. It is so important if you have the means or time to give back because you have to pay it forward,” she said. “It’s part of our duty. Giving back is something we encourage all of our team members to participate in. We are not just a technical service provider. We want to be part of the communities we are serving.”
Cal Poly Pomona also is one of those communities, affording Demirci the opportunity to support future engineers and the university that has been instrumental in her success.
“We place so much value on Cal Poly Pomona,” she said. “Not only did I graduate from there, but so many of our team members — I can think of at least 15 or 20 — graduated from there. One of our team members was a scholarship recipient during COVID. He came on part time here and now he is full time.”
Your Support Makes a Difference
Cal Poly Pomona’s Polytechnic Experience is supported by the philanthropy of thousands of donors, who help fund scholarships, lab and facilities, educational experiences, student support resources, and more.
On Giving Day on April 19 and 20, our entire CPP community has an opportunity to make an impact through donations. Your investment in student success during Giving Day transforms the lives of Broncos, and the impact will ripple across their communities. Learn more at https://givingday.cpp.edu/.