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Cal Poly Receives Largest-Ever Financial Donation: $110 Million

Bill and Linda Frost made the contribution to the San Luis Obispo university's College of Science and Mathematics

Bill Frost announces a $110 million donation he and his wife, Linda, are making to the College of Science and Mathematics at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. It’s the largest financial gift in the university’s history. Click to view larger
Bill Frost announces a $110 million donation he and his wife, Linda, are making to the College of Science and Mathematics at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. It’s the largest financial gift in the university’s history. (David Middlecamp / San Luis Obispo Tribune photo)

Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo officials on Wednesday announced the largest financial donation ever given to the university and the California State University system: $110 million to the College of Science and Mathematics for undergraduate research.

The money, which is among the largest gifts ever to public education in California, comes from Bill and Linda Frost, who have a history of making large donations to Cal Poly.

“Bill and Linda’s gift will impact the lives of countless Cal Poly students, right now and far into the future,” said Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong in a news release. “The Frosts envision Cal Poly’s College of Science and Mathematics housing one of the top undergraduate academic and research programs in the country.

"Their willingness to think big is an inspiration to all of us and a model for how Cal Poly will continue to provide the creative thinkers and problem-solvers for today’s complex global workforce.”

The gift aims to form a new vision for undergraduate science and math research at Cal Poly, creating a program that makes students top prospects as they move onto graduate school and professional careers, according to a university news release.

In designing the program, Bill Frost worked closely with Science and Math Dean Phil Bailey, who is a longtime friend.

A highlight of the donation will be a new 18,000-square-foot interdisciplinary research center, as well as $3.6 million annually for scholarships, research stipends, new equipment, and additional faculty.

Bill Frost graduated from the university with a degree in biochemistry before going on to found the chemical manufacturing company Chemlogics, which he later sold for $1.3 billion.

Linda Frost is a graduate of San Jose State University. Last spring, the Frosts pledged $20 million for the university’s planned Science and Agriculture Teaching and Research Complex.

“I see this as an investment in the education and future successes of our science and mathematics students,” Bill Frost said. “I want this funding to be used to further enhance the ‘Learn by Doing’ experiences that define Cal Poly and to provide students with research opportunities that will result in their presenting at regional, national and even international professional conferences and co-authoring publications with their faculty mentors in peer-reviewed journals.”

CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White, who was on hand for the announcement, said the impact of the gift will reach beyond Cal Poly.

“Bill and Linda’s inspirational gift sets an example for other current and potential donors,” White said. “It highlights the crucial role private support plays in helping to maintain and enhance California’s public higher education system.”

Until Wednesday, the largest gift in CSU history, also made to Cal Poly, was a $60 million donation in the form of a bequest from an anonymous donor, which included real estate, stock and other assets to be released upon the donor’s death.

Andrew Sheeler is a reporter with the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Contact im at [email protected]

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