SAN DIEGO - San Diego State University Wednesday announced a $25 million gift -- the largest donation in the school's history -- from longtime area businessman Ron Fowler, part of the Padres ownership group, and his wife, Alexis.
The money will support the College of Business Administration, which now carries the Fowler name. The previous largest gift was $20 million from the late philanthropist Conrad Prebys.
Fowler, who has backed academic and athletic programs at SDSU and the University of San Diego for many years, will match donations in order to bring the college's endowment up to $50 million.
"It's been a lifelong dream for me to really get involved in higher education," Fowler said.
He said the saying that education is a "great equalizer" was true for him.
"I was the first one in my family to be able to go to college and now we have scholarship programs and we still are seeing kids -- especially kids of color -- who are the first ones in their family to go to college, and it's a huge difference," Fowler said.
He said part of the money will pay for scholarships that will help recruit students who otherwise wouldn't make it into college for financial reasons.
SDSU President Elliot Hirshman said the funds will also provide internships and entrepreneurial opportunities for students, help recruit talented faculty, support visiting lecturers, establish a visiting fellowship program in which the fellow will spend a week on campus and deliver an annual lecture, back international programs and support veterans.
Fowler said he wants to take a good business school and make it a great one.
"We want to make it more known internationally and in the United States," Fowler said. "We want to improve its rankings."
The school launched a major fundraising effort in 2007 called The Campaign for SDSU, which raised $500 million in seven years. The bar was then pushed up to $750 million, and school officials reported that Fowler's gift beat the mark by $3 million.
In addition to being executive chairman of the Padres, Fowler is chairman and CEO of the beverage distributor Liquid Investments Inc.