San Diego State receives philanthropic gift of $20 million

Gift from Conrad Prebys largest in school history

SAN DIEGO - San Diego State University announced Wednesday the largest single gift it has ever received -- $20 million from developer and philanthropist Conrad Prebys.

The money will endow scholarships that will benefit around 150 students annually, according to SDSU.

In exchange, the new student union building that opened last month will be called the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union.

"The idea of scholarships for students intrigued me, because I know how difficult it is going to college right now," Prebys said. "Back when I was going to school, it was no big deal to work while you were going to school. Now it can't be done, really. It's very difficult and expensive."

According to SDSU, the scholarships will support:

-- student veterans who are within two semesters of graduating and have exhausted their GI benefits and other forms of financial support;

-- students intending to pursue careers in bio-medical research and bio-medical engineering;

-- creative and performing arts students involved in musical theater, art, poetry and creative writing;

-- former foster youth who require year-round support since they don't have families to help them with their expenses;

-- students who demonstrate significant inclination towards entrepreneurial achievement and who will participate in formal programs in the school's Zahn Innovation Center and/or the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center;

-- participants in SDSU's Associated Students leadership team and other formal university leadership programs; and

-- high-achieving students involved in a program of rigorous study emphasizing creativity, leadership and critical thinking.

Prebys is a longtime financial supporter of San Diego institutions, including KPBS, UC San Diego, the San Diego Zoo, Boys and Girls Club, Old Globe Theater, La Jolla Music Society, San Diego Opera, Scripps Mercy Hospital, Scripps Prebys Cardiovascular Center, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and the Salk Institute.

The gift pushes the total for the multi-year Campaign for SDSU to $465 million. The fundraising campaign has a goal of $500 million.

The gift also comes as students are looking at the possibility of another fee increase to help hire more professors and open up classes.

"It's been tough," said Daniel Cartier, a freshman. "I registered a bit late and watched as all my classes got filled up."

Aly Faucett, a junior, agreed.

"It's hard to get the classes you need to graduate in the order you want to take them," she said.

Students approved a $150 fee increase to pay for the new student union. They are now being polled in different forums on whether to support another fee increase up to $500 or somewhere in between for additional professors. The final decision will be up to the CSU chancellor.

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