SFSU Foundation Board Dinner

Remarks by Dr. Timothy P. White
Chancellor, California State University
SFSU Foundation Board Dinner
Half Moon Bay, CA
April 10, 2015

Thank you Les & Phyllis Wong, along with John Gumas, Ken Fong, Herb Myers, and Robert Nava for the invitation and for your hospitality to Karen and me.

It is also great to see Danell Zeavin, a strong advocate and alumna of San Francisco State, and Ron Stovitz, who I know from our days together in the UC system.

As always, it’s a pleasure to be back in the Bay Area, particularly in such beautiful surroundings like Half Moon Bay.

The world-famous Mavericks big wave surf spot is just across the bay off Pillar Point.

After meeting with legislators earlier this week on the state budget, I’m thinking that surfing a 30-footer should be a piece of cake in comparison. Karen, are you in?

Keeping with the surfing theme, let’s not forget that we wouldn’t be sitting here this evening without the help and guidance of you, our advocates and champions.

You provide the perspective, balance, and support to allow San Francisco State and the CSU to safely ride those big waves, and most importantly, avoid the rocks.

Champions like Trustee Emeritus Ken Fong, whose passion for STEM education, business, research, and public higher education is truly an inspiration to the students and faculty of San Francisco State… indeed to all of us.

Ken’s continued generosity and philanthropic support of several scholarships and funds – including the CSU Trustees’ Scholarship and a $5 million leadership gift to this campaign – is inspiring and deeply appreciated by all of us in the Cal State system.

Ken, we cannot thank you enough for all that you have done for this university and for California.

And champions like your chairman, John Gumas, where in his role with this foundation has made an immense commitment to this university and to the future of San Francisco State.

He and his wife Janice - who is also the founding president of the San Francisco State Parents Council - truly exemplify that word… champion.

John, thank you for everything you do to support and strengthen our university.  I look forward to your guidance and leadership as this campaign moves ahead.

And thanks for entrusting your son to us as he studies at this great university.

Having all graduated from San Francisco State, and as part of the CSU’s Class of 3 Million, Ken, John and Janice understand the importance of giving back to their university.

The dedication of the Fong and Gumas families – and of everyone at this dinner tonight – is truly reflective of this concept of “shared leadership” that makes the CSU such a valuable asset for the people of this state.

The critical issues and incredible opportunities that face our university in the decades to come require all of our stakeholders to share in the responsibility of the public’s university. 

Shared leadership means that we all have a stake in ensuring that the CSU and San Francisco State are meeting the needs of students and the people of California, now and in the future.

Leadership matters.

I learned much of San Francisco State three or four years ago when I chaired the accreditation team that visited. You had strong leadership back then, but Les and Phyllis have taken it to a new level.  

Leadership that is focused, committed to students and their success, and engaged with the community and business. A shared DNA with San Francisco State for justice – social, economic and environmental - though education and research.

Please join me in commending Les and Phyllis and their administrative and faculty leaders, many of whom are here this evening.

Just like this innovative new campaign for San Francisco State, your foundation has, in a relatively short period of time, left a legacy of taking on big challenges, being stewards of the public good, and leading on issues that matter to the people of the Bay Area and California. 

A year ago last month, this foundation board had the vision and courage to move forward with this campaign and a working goal of raising 150 million dollars.

First campaigns are so very special.  You’ll achieve, you’ll exceed, and you’ll build pride and momentum.

And let me tell you, the number of ‘firsts’ diminish as we age!

The resolve of this foundation to challenge itself with an eye towards the future, to develop groundbreaking partnerships and to unite diverse stakeholders is impressive.

I’d be tempted to say that this is rather new for this foundation, but making bold decisions seem to be par for the course.

Just a few years ago, this foundation strengthened its commitment to the environment by choosing to divest from fossil fuels. And just last year, you reaffirmed your commitment to the environment with a unanimous vote to divest from corporations associated with coal and tar sands.

In fact, the San Francisco State Foundation was the first major public university in the United States to make such a commitment to the environment and to the future of our state and nation…

One that required the courage and shared leadership of students, faculty, administrators, community partners, and Foundation members.

These decisions weren’t easy to make – and the risks were great. I’m sure those of you involved in these decisions had quite a few sleepless nights.

Yet time and time again, this foundation and this university, under the guidance of visionary leaders, continue to make the right choice for the community it serves.

This university continues to redefine what a public institution can accomplish for its students and people of California.

And this university is leading the way for higher education – embracing innovative ways to build productive partnerships, harnessing the economic and creative power of the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. 

You’ve stood by your principles and the needs of your students and community… sharing leadership and cultivating partnerships with the region’s technology, entertainment, engineering, and nonprofit sectors, to name a few.

The work of the San Francisco State Foundation and the future success of this campaign is vitally important to ensuring academic quality and the financial strength of this university.

From the Entertainment Industry Initiative – which San Francisco State is a major contributor – to the Institute of Palliative Care, our foundations and auxiliaries play a critical role in ensuring academic quality and student success.

These initiatives – spanning the needs of our state – are providing our students and alumni with the tools needed to compete in the global marketplace. 

But as I mentioned at last month’s CSU Board of Trustees meeting… I am also cognizant of just how vulnerable the CSU is, and as a consequence, how vulnerable California’s future is. 

As underinvestment in public higher education continues to plague California, CSU’s campus foundations provide for excellence and access to educational experiences. Particularly in this environment, I am deeply appreciative of your efforts to ensure that we can provide our students a quality, accessible education.

And our San Francisco State champions at the state capitol are working hard to impress upon policymakers the importance of our university in the long-term success of California.

I believe that this message, coupled with our reasonable… and quite honestly, attainable… request for an additional $97 million in addition to the Governor’s proposed budget, is being well received.  

And your foundation directors that championed the CSU in Sacramento earlier this week - Kimberly Brandon, Taylor Safford, John Gumas and Miguel Guerrero - they are a big part of the reason why that message is being well received at the capitol.

Please give a wave so we can all thank you.

I’m optimistic that with your help, and with the help of our partners and stakeholders, we will continue to see a much-needed case for public resources.

Sufficient and appropriate funding means that our students – who come from diverse backgrounds and socioeconomic realities... from affluent neighborhoods to underserved communities – that are often side by side – are prepared, rewarded, challenged and supported in order to find solutions to our society’s most complex issues.

These complex issues – poverty, climate change, violence, the drought – will likely be solved by a graduate from California’s public universities.

You may know that 1 in 10 employed in California are CSU degree holders, but it will probably be surprise that 1 in 20 degree holders in the United States have a CSU degree.

My hope is that the state will take its cue from the work you are doing – as your campaign brings in the critical resources that will sustain opportunity and excellence here at San Francisco State.

We know that even with continued state reinvestment, the support required to solve these complex issues will undoubtedly require the shared leadership and philanthropic support of our stakeholders and partners from the community, industry and government.

Your leadership in this campaign means that the people of San Francisco and California will continue to have the opportunity for a superb education that provides the skills required for long-term success.

This foundation only exists because of you, its members, and you will be that critical margin of excellence… a margin that ensures our students have the opportunities to obtain and then expand on their education… becoming community-focused citizens that will spur innovation and drive California’s economy and society forward.

And I know that with the steadfast leadership and a penchant for big, bold ideas, this campaign will thrive.

So let me close now and ask the university folks here tonight to join me and rise in applause in thanking you, the friends and members of the Foundation, for the past, for the present and for the future, which is the only thing we have left to influence.

Thank you.