In the lead
Acostas’ $1M pledge fortifies student competitiveness
BY SARAH STANEK
At the heart of the Wayne & Gladys Valley Business and Technology Center, an airy atrium outside the main lecture hall recognizes those who contributed to the building’s construction and, by extension, the mission of Cal State East Bay. The Acosta Family Gallery is named for two of the University’s most generous donors, Jack Acosta ’75, MBA ’78 and his wife, Susan.
In June, Cal State East Bay announced a new contribution from the Acostas — $1 million to support the College of Business and Economics, the largest private gift from individual donors to date in CSUEB’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign.
The majority of their campaign commitment will establish endowments for three professorships in CBE and create undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships for business students, with the balance available as current support for faculty and students until the endowments are fully funded.
Acosta, a former high tech executive and well-known philanthropist, earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration with a focus on industrial relations, followed by an MBA in management science. He has maintained his connection to CSUEB, serving as a trustee of the Cal State East Bay Educational Foundation since 2004 and as a member of the advisory boards for the College of Business and Economics and the Concord campus.
That level of involvement has given him a firsthand understanding of the impact of the University’s recent changes as well as what President Mohammad Qayoumi has planned for the future. “He brought a lot of energy to the campus,” Acosta says. “The University must continue to reach out to move forward. When you look at the objectives for the campaign, that’s what will create an environment that will attract more top talent and support.”
Chairs and professorships are a way to do just that, says Dean Terri Swartz of CBE. Attracting and hiring top faculty is always a priority, she added; offering a permanent source of supplemental support makes the University a more favorable choice for prospective faculty.
“It’s a transformational gift,” she says. “These professorships are extremely valuable retention and recruiting tools, especially when the business school is competing with private-sector salaries.”
Faculty holding endowed professorships receive extra money each year to enhance their teaching and research, support existing projects, or launch new initiatives. Endowment payouts, for example, can pay for teaching or research student assistants, or cover travel and expenses for seminars and conferences. Faculty can also use the funds to spend additional time developing curricula or do other work on behalf of their department or college.
The professorships will support faculty in the college’s four departments: accounting and finance; economics; management; and marketing and entrepreneurship. They will not be designated for specific disciplines, which Swartz says provides greater flexibility in recruiting and selecting faculty. With the recent redesign of the business curriculum, however, she says the appointments will likely align with the college’s new thrusts — sustainability, globalization, and innovation — and areas including technology that fall within the University-wide initiative for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.
That suits Acosta. “Given our proximity to so many high tech industries, STEM is a natural centerpiece,” he says. “The ability to include technology in the business curriculum, and to continue to do this as we develop more new technologies — that’s a natural extension of STEM and the University’s mission.”
While the professorships are important for attracting top faculty talent, support for student talent is just as important to the Acostas. Their gift also will provide scholarships and fellowships to undergraduate and graduate students, many of whom are working professionals — just as Acosta himself was, working full time as a Fremont police officer during his studies.
Acosta says he was particularly compelled by the priorities of The University of Possibilities campaign. “Cal State East Bay is already known as one of the best in the west,” he says. “The campaign is a major step forward, a way to help the university move to the next level.”