Conrad T. PrebysConrad T. Prebys

Entrepreneur/Philanthropist/Community Leader

San Diego State University

Conrad T. Prebys has helped build San Diego from the ground up, literally and figuratively, through his real estate development ventures and philanthropic support of the region's cultural, educational and medical institutions.

From humble beginnings, Mr. Prebys rose to a leadership position in San Diego while constructing and renting homes, apartments and storage spaces. He considers himself "the luckiest man alive."

Mr. Prebys' generosity is as legendary as his business acumen. The Chronicle of Philanthropy numbers him among the country's leading donors and Business Insider named him one of the 25 Most Generous People in America.

Born into a working-class Indiana family, Mr. Prebys came to San Diego in 1965. He joined a local building firm, but left to pursue his own venture, Progress Construction and Management. The company initially built single-family homes before advancing into multi-family residences of all types and subdivision work. It was one of the earliest developers of strategically placed storage facilities.

Even before he amassed the majority of his wealth, Mr. Prebys was drawn to philanthropy. He purchased hams and turkeys for his property managers at Christmas. He supported construction of a clubhouse for the East County Boys and Girls Club. His generosity has benefited KPBS, the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Opera, the Old Globe Theatre, the Salk Institute, Scripps Health and the Sanford/Burnham Medical Research Institute.

Mr. Prebys' ties to San Diego State University span decades. He has employed dozens of SDSU graduates and rented homes to hundreds of SDSU students. These relationships led to a deeper connection when, in 2014, he made a transformational $20-million gift to create more than 150 scholarships, the largest gift in university history, and the first that Mr. Prebys has given to support individual students.

A second gift of $2.5 million to create the Conrad Prebys Chair in Biomedical Research is the most significant endowment ever received by SDSU to support a faculty researcher.

To thank Mr. Prebys for his generosity, SDSU named the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union in his honor. Each day, thousands of students, faculty and staff who walk through its halls and courtyard are reminded of his support.

In recognition of Conrad Prebys' business fortitude, extraordinary generosity and commitment to the university's future, the Board of Trustees of the California State University and San Diego State University are proud to confer upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.