Story Philanthropy

CSU Donor Dan Black Keeps Giving Back and Back

Lorraine Crawford


​Dan Black, left, with Joshua Smith, associate professor of physics and the inaugural director of Dan Black Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy.​


​The California State University system "is profoundly grateful for the countless ways in which alumni, faculty, staff, trustees, champions, supporters and friends give in support of its students, values and mission," said Chancellor Timothy White in CSU's 2015-2016 Philanthropic Report.  Indeed, more people – alumni, faculty, staff, trustees, champions, supporters and friends – gave to the California State University in 2015-2016 than in the system's history. Some 242,000 individual donors committed $489 million for student scholarships, research, creative activities and to support endowments.

And many, like Dan Black, (California State University, Fullerton, B.S. Physics '67), keep giving back.

And back.

And back some more.

Inspired by "four physics teachers that changed my life," Black's generous philanthropy toward his alma mater began in 1998. That year, he established the annual Dan Black Physics scholarships for physics majors. For almost two decades, he has steadily built a legacy of commitment to the University through bequests that sustain several initiatives, including a campus entrepreneurship program, as well as his involvement in mentoring.

In 2000, the physicist and businessman launched the Dan Black Program in Physics and Business. Black, who founded three multimillion-dollar companies before retiring, conceived the one-of-a-kind program to equip physics majors with the business skills and resources needed to start their own businesses — like he did. With venture capital that he provides, the program's senior physics majors develop business plans for new companies through a capstone course. Students are guided through the process by an advisory board that includes business leaders and entrepreneurs from the region.

Black has provided many transformational gifts to the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM). In recognition of the CSUF graduate's $4.2 million gift, in 2006 the University renamed its Science Laboratory Center to Dan Black Hall. The two-story facility houses more than 50 laboratories devoted to the study of biology, chemistry, biochemistry, geological sciences and physics.

To date, Black and his wife, Kathy Chao Black, have given a total of over $8 million in gifts and pledges. Black, a recipient of Cal State Fullerton's Distinguished Alumnus Award, just keeps on giving.

In spring 2016, the Blacks established NSM's first named directorship with a three-year naming gift of $225,000 for CSUF's Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy Center. Their support is being used to advance the center's research, teaching and outreach, said the center's director, Joshua Smith, associate professor of physics and the inaugural Dan Black Director of Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy.

"We're using the funds to involve more undergraduates in research activities, including presenting at conferences. And we've hired our center's first postdoctoral scholar, Marissa Walker, a strong mentor to students who will contribute to research on many more discoveries of gravitational waves," Smith said. 

Black remains humble and grateful to his Cal State Fullerton physics professors who inspired him to inspire others.

"My success was not because of me. It was because of the people around me. Back when I had sold my first company and could retire, I sat down and thought, 'How did I get so lucky?'" he said. "And what I came up with was my four physics professors. They changed my life."

With kudos to those four inspirational Cal State Fullerton professors — Roger Dittman, and the late Raymond Adams, Harvey Blend and Ronald Crowley — the California State University is lucky to have earned the continuous support of Dan Black. His gifts and pledges will undoubtedly have an impact on the lives of countless students for generations to come.

Join thousands of CSU champions, supporters and donors with a gift toward one of our 23 campuses or the Chancellor's Office here.