Phyllis MadonnaPhyllis Madonna

Businesswoman/Philanthropist/Community Leader

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Phyllis Madonna is one of the most well-known and respected citizens of the Central Coast of California. As a successful businessperson, rancher and philanthropist, she has made contributions of both immediate and lasting value to the local area and beyond.

Born in Orange County in 1928, Mrs. Madonna married her husband, Alex, and the couple moved north in 1948. They started a construction company and became instrumental in developing large portions of San Luis Obispo County. Ten years later, they opened the iconic Madonna Inn and it continues to be an internationally celebrated hotel and a San Luis Obispo landmark.

Mrs. Madonna's passion for the arts is evidenced by her consistent support for local organizations such as the San Luis Obispo Symphony and the Performing Arts Center, a three way partnership between California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), the City of San Luis Obispo and the community. She contributes to many local events that showcase the arts including Festival Mozaic, via dei Colori (i Maddonari) and the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.

Mrs. Madonna believes in the transformative value of education. She supports Mission College Preparatory Catholic High School and San Luis Obispo High School's FFA program. She is a decades-long member of the Cal Poly community, having sent her four children to the university. Many other members of her family—including in-laws and grandchildren—have also attended. These generations continue the Madonna family legacy of community support.

For nearly thirty years, Mrs. Madonna put her commitment to local women and children into action by producing the Phyllis Madonna Musical Revue and Fashion Show. The evening is lighthearted but the impact is momentous: over three million dollars has been raised over the years to benefit the Women's Shelter Program of San Luis Obispo.

Mrs. Madonna's community spirit and support have been recognized by a number of organizations. She has received many awards including the California State Assembly's Woman of the Year award and the Woman of Distinction Award from Cuesta College. In 2012, she was named Citizen of the Year by the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce. She was also chosen to serve as the Cal Poly Open House Grand Marshal that same year.

In recognition of her accomplishments and the numerous ways she has enriched the lives of local citizens, the Board of Trustees of The California State University and Cal Poly are proud to confer upon Phyllis Madonna the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.