“One hundred and ten million dollars!” Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong shouted out the instant confetti cannons exploded, yellow and green balloons flooded down from the ceiling and an organist played triumphal chords. That was the big reveal today on the Cal Poly campus in San Luis Obispo - the moment Armstrong announced the amount of the latest and greatest gift to the university from San Luis Obispo County residents William and Linda Frost.
“This is the largest private gift in the California State University system. That deserves saying again, this is the largest private gift in the California State University system,” California assemblyman Jordan Cunningham said in a speech before presenting the Frosts with a state resolution of thanks.
Throughout Wednesday’s ceremony, attended by several hundred students, faculty and guests, the word transformative was used again and again. The dean of the college of sciences and mathematics, Dr. Philip Bailey, said the gift would truly transform undergraduate research at the school.
The $110 million dollar endowment is intended to create at Cal Poly the best undergraduate science and mathematics research program in the nation. For over a decade, Bill and Linda Frost have provided a scholarship for undergraduate students in the college of science and math. Each summer five undergraduate students - mainly in chemistry and biochemistry - are also supported by the Frosts.
“In 2014, Bill and Linda increased their gifts to the university, and now we have 67 students with Frost scholarships,” Dr. Bailey said, describing the history of the Frosts’ involvement with Cal Poly.
The couple are CSU alums. In 1972, Bill Frost graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in biochemistry. Linda Frost graduated from San Jose State with a degree in biology. The Frosts are the former owners of Chemlogics, a company that manufactured chemicals used in the extraction of oil and gas.
“After a successful career that culminated in the sale of his Chemlogics company in 2013, Bill wanted to give back to his alma mater, to help us continue to provide students with the same excellent Learn by Doing education that helped launch him to success,” Armstrong said in a statement.
After speeches by Bailey, Armstrong and the chancellor of the CSU system, Timothy White, Bill Frost took the podium to offer thanks of his own.
“The contribution of my partners...who helped run six business units over 40 years, operating ten manufacturing plants, three research centers...without their support, we wouldn’t be able to make this gift.”
The Frost endowment will provide for the hiring of new faculty, buy cutting- edge equipment and build a planned science and agriculture teaching and research center at Cal Poly.