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gift of land

Seventh Normal School President Arthur John Matthews, Homecoming 1929.

Prior to a gathering of the Thirteenth Territorial Legislature, Representative John Samuel Armstrong of Tempe and town founder Charles Trumbell Hayden agreed that it was “time to bring home the normal school” as a “wonderful force for good in the community.” But the men knew their chances for success would be greatly improved if the land for the proposed school was a gift to the territory. The land they sought belonged to pioneer George Washington Wilson, a Tempe butcher. Wilson and his wife Martha agreed to sell five acres to Hayden and his support group for $100 an acre — all that could be raised by the town’s residents. With a deadline set by the legislature looming and little chance that the remaining $1,500 necessary to purchase the required 20-acre plot was at hand, George and Martha Wilson became the first investors in what would become Arizona State University, donating 15 acres to complete the “campaign” just one week ahead of the due date.

As Arizona State University’s first “donor,” Wilson was honored in 1956 when Arizona State College President Grady Gammage and the Arizona Board of Regents bestowed on its newest women’s residence facility the name George W. Wilson Hall.


Students plant ivy at Old Main in 1923, a tradition since 1901.

Edgar Storment, the school’s fourth principal (they were principals in those days, not presidents!), was the first to look beyond the bounds of the campus for support, launching the first alumni association to assist with the necessary fundraising. In a letter to graduates — all 20-plus of them in 1894 — Storment invited them back to the normal school to form an association. A social club and booster group initially, the association was to become a critical and effective engine for raising money and providing general assistance on many levels. The principal also recruited the help of the Valley community to support a small program of athletics, starting with a baseball team that carried the normal school “N” into competition, followed shortly thereafter by the addition of a football team.

Storment also drew up the original plans for iconic Old Main, which was dedicated on Feb. 4, 1898. The three-story building was the first in Tempe wired for electric lighting.

In 1896, the normal school was given a new moniker — Tempe Normal School of Arizona — and just four years later boasted 131 students taught by six faculty members. And in 1911, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt visited what was now named Tempe Normal School and delivered a 13-minute address that focused on his vision for education of children, educational training and the development of the Valley. Tempe Normal School was earning a higher profile.

laying the groundwork

Students sit by the fountain at Old Main built in 1933 by WPA artist Emry Kopta.

Renamed Tempe State Teachers College in 1925 and Arizona State Teachers College in 1928, more private support for the school arrived in the 1930’s when the Tempe-based Bulldog Boosters provided financial assistance for the athletic programs. In 1946, just before the changing of the school’s mascot from the Bulldogs to the Sun Devils, the fundraising Sun Angels came into being.

In 1947, two years after the Teachers College became Arizona State College, college President Grady Gammage made a significant move, acting on a request by the college’s agriculture department faculty. Gammage assembled an influential group of Arizona farmers and businessmen to assist in the development of agricultural facilities at the college. Known as the Agricultural Advisory Council, it was an effective support group for the institution: members of the original council purchased almost 400 acres during the post-World War II years, about half of today’s main campus. The AAC was the forerunner of what would become today’s ASU Foundation for A New American University. 

Gammage again advanced the fundraising success of the state college in 1950 when he launched a campaign to create a student union building on the Tempe campus where students and faculty could takes their meals, conduct meetings, relax in the lounge and even enjoy some bowling. While the state legislature voted a $400,000 appropriation for the project, the amount was $350,000 shy of what was necessary to make the idea of such a gathering place reality. The philanthropic energy and thrust came from some of Phoenix’s most powerful citizens as well as select members of the AAC — names like Carl Hayden, Charles Stauffer, John C. Mills, Walter Bimson, Joe Lanser, Martin Wist, W.W. Knorpp and Hugh Gruwell, M.O. Best, John Jacobs, Sid Moeur, Kathryn (Kay) K. Gammage and ASC student body leaders Edward M. Carson and Bob Stump became forever linked with the college for their efforts to complete the student union. With such community clout and campus spirit behind it, the Memorial Student Union campaign roared to a successful conclusion, raising $439,000 in less than three years.

birth of the foundation

Alumni President Marvin Palmer, Alumni Secretary James Creasman, ASU President Grady Gammage and Walter Craig wait for results from the 1958 ASU name-change election.

On June 22, 1955, the Arizona State College Foundation was incorporated to broaden the mission of the Agricultural Advisory Council. The new foundation and its board of directors zeroed in on the value of ASC: “… in Arizona State College at Tempe, the community had the means of offering the general and specialized educational programs essential for the development of skilled, well-informed industrial personnel … and these men began putting the weight of their support behind it,” wrote John Meyers in a 1957 article for Arizona Days and Ways magazine.
The board was instrumental in raising support for all educational areas across the burgeoning campus. During these years, the foundation:

  • Committed $350,000 to purchase the 320-acre Jones Farm in 1956 (now ASU Research Park).
  • Committed $115,000 in 1957 to purchase land north of the college for a new stadium.
  • Recruited Daniel E. Noble to the board in 1958, securing a pledge of $150,000 from Motorola to support engineering.
  • Recognized Kathryn “Kay” Gammage’s emergence as a force in the community in 1959, voting her into membership in the foundation. She was destined to become a [primary force in the growth of the ASU Foundation for almost four decades; she worked tirelessly for the university until the year before her death in 1979.
  • Purchased the Nininger Meteorite Collection for $375,000 with support from the National Science Foundation, a loan from Valley National Bank and Herbert Fales’ contribution of IBM stock.
  • Secured an $80,000 grant from the Walker McCune Foundation and provided equipment funding to jump start the launch of KAET-TV in 1961.

Included among the foundation’s many early successes was the political and economic clout it provided to gain the support of business leaders in the proposed college name change to Arizona State University in 1958.

building relationships

Students buy used books from a vendor on Cady Mall in the 1970s.

1965 marked the 10th anniversary of the foundation, and in those 10 years, the organization had become firmly established, gained visibility in the community and won the respect of the university and the deans of the various colleges.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the ASU Foundation continued to raise funds to support a broad range of university initiatives, including:

  • Funding to support the construction of the ASU College of Law in 1964 and Hayden Library in 1966.
  • Funding to finance and build Packard Stadium in 1974, home of the ASU Baseball Sun Devils through the end of the 2014 season.
  • Establishing a pooled income fund and life annuity to launch a gift planning program for ASU.
  • Receiving and managing Castle Hot Springs, a 165-acre resort property gifted by Dr. Mae Sue Talley, which would ultimately provide the foundation with $3 million to start an endowment.

One development during this time would serve ASU and the foundation in the years to come, as Robert and Kax Herberger moved from their home and hardware retail business in St. Cloud, Minn., to the Valley. The Herbergers gifted their solar home to the foundation, which sold for $21,000 in 1965, but Robert wished to see a greater fundraising effort by the foundation. Over the next 40 years, the Herbergers created a lofty legacy at ASU in the service to the university and the foundation, and today the renowned Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU carries their name.

centennial campaign

Sparky and a student show their ASU pride during a firework show at ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium.

The growing needs of the university prompted the foundation to begin planning for ASU's first comprehensive campaign in the early 1980s. Under the leadership of newly appointed foundation President Lonnie Ostrom, a community-wide effort expanded the role of the foundation to include identifying major gift prospects and ensuring that the assets of the foundation were managed to maximize returns and protect investments.
Included in the responsibilities was the launch of the $75 million Centennial Campaign for ASU. The preamble to the 48-page campaign document noted, “All successful major development campaigns share five components: an essential need, a compelling case, inspired and influential leadership, sufficient major prospects, and good management in organizing and operating the campaign.” With the focused advocacy and passion of Ostrom, ASU President Russell Nelson and ASU Foundation board members Kathryn Herberger, Budd Peabody and Bob Bulla, the Centennial Campaign for ASU raised more than $114 million for ASU and increased foundation assets from $3.1 million to $28.5 million.
Highlights of the campaign included:

  • A lead gift of $2 million from the Karsten Solheim family, complemented by a $6 million gift of the necessary acreage from Keith Turley and APS, created the Karsten Golf Course, today’s “Home of Champions to the Sun Devils men’s and women’s golf teams.
  • The acquisition of the $8.7 million Sundome Performing Arts Center from Del E. Webb Corporation.
  • More than $30 million in land and construction funds, including the Nelson Fine Arts Center on Main Campus and the Sands Classroom Building and Fletcher Library at ASU West.
  • More than $12 million in new scholarship funding.
  • The Robert B. Dalton Endowed Chair in Cancer Research — the first endowed chair position at ASU — in addition to almost $10 million in other endowed faculty positions.

The ASU President’s Club, a foundation community engagement program, was created in 1984.

new strategies

A student works out a problem on the classroom board.

As the foundation prepared for the next ASU campaign, the Campaign for Leadership, its new strategic plan was crafted to accomplish three purposes: 1) to position the foundation to play a leadership role in advancing the university in the 1990s; 2) to focus the energies and talents of the ASU Foundation board and staff on the achievement of common goals; 3) to assess the philanthropic opportunities for the university and the role of the foundation in realizing those opportunities.
A number of precedent-setting gifts were received by the foundation in the early years of the decade, including the largest cash donation in ASU's history. The $4 million gift from Del E. Webb Foundation was used to endow and name the Del E. Webb School of Construction. Other notable gifts included:

  • A $1.5 million educational investment from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for undergraduate research in biology.
  • A $1 million investment in support of faculty excellence provided by the National Association of Purchasing Agents for the Harold E. Fearon Chair in Purchasing.
  • The completion of a $1 million gift from PepsiCo to fund the PepsiCo Scholars program for MBA students.
  • A $340,000 gift from the G. Robert Herberger Fund to support the Herberger Center for Design Excellence.
  • A $500,000 gift from Virginia M. Ullman for a professorship in ecology.
lattie coor

Lattie F. Coor, ASU’s 15th president serving from 1990 to 2002.

In the fall of 1994, the ASU Foundation board and ASU President Lattie Coor tested the waters for ASU's second comprehensive fundraising campaign. Its fundraising goals were to encompass all academic units of the university, as well as athletics and university-wide objectives. The foundation certainly got the campaign off to a jump start, as Walter and Betsy Cronkite served as the campaign's honorary national chairs. Ed and Nadine Carson and Dick and Dinky Snell co-chaired the national campaign.
Just before the launch of the campaign, the foundation played a critical role in the renovation of the university’s iconic building, Old Main. An inaugural gift of $500,000 was made by the Carsons. Grady Gammage Jr. funded a conference room, and noted ASU alumni took an active part: U.S. Congressmen from Arizona Ed Pastor and Bob Stump, former state treasurer Doug Todd, football great Wilford “Whizzer” White and former football head coach Bill Kajikawa all joined the restoration project.
ASU Campaign for Leadership priorities were grouped into three broad categories: Great Teachers, Great Students and Great Communities, with new and augmented endowments being an across-the-board goal. Launched in 1997, the original goal was $300 million: $75 million in endowed chairs and professorships; $75 million in student scholarships and program support; and $150 million in programs that would enable the university to function at the cutting edge of research and discovery and more fully bind ASU with the greater community. The fundraising goal was soon raised to $400 million!
At the close of the campaign, total gifts and pledges exceeded $560 million, including:

  • Nearly $82 million for faculty support, including 37 chairs and 47 professorships.
  • Almost $97 million for 86 graduate fellowships and 372 scholarship funds.
  • More than $382 million for general and special projects to build "great communities."

And, by the end of FY 2001, the ASU endowment had grown to $207 million.

Dr. Crow

Michael M. Crow, ASU’s 16th president took office in July 2002.

In 2002, Michael M. Crow became the 16th president of ASU. He set out to transform ASU into a national model for a New American University. This model derives from design imperatives that stress student success, the social relevance of university teaching and research, a focus on the university's local setting within a global context, interdisciplinary collaboration and entrepreneurship.

During this period of reinvention and transformation (through Dec. 2013), ASU’s total endowment has grown to more than $560 million, more than doubling in value in just 12 years. Most recently, under the leadership of CEO R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr., the ASU Foundation for A New American University generated $136 million in new investments and commitments (FY12-13), and during President Crow’s tenure, philanthropic giving to the university has included:

  • A $58 million investment in 2003 by Ira Fulton to name the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, which was followed in 2005 by a $100 million commitment that endowed the Schools of Engineering and the Mary Lou Fulton Teacher College.
  • A $50 million gift from the W. P. Carey Foundation to name the W. P. Carey School of Business.
  • Nearly $50 million from Siemens PLM Software to the Fulton School of Engineering.
  • A $27.5 million investment by the Walton Family Foundation to advance the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives.
  • A $27.5 million investment by the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program to provide academically talented, yet financially disadvantaged students from Africa with access to an ASU education.
  • Commitments totaling more than $25 million from Julie A. Wrigley to the Global Institute of Sustainability.
  • Total investments of more than $25 million by T. Denny Sanford to support the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics.
  • The establishment of the Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy at ASU’s West campus as the result of a $20 million gift from Jeanne and Gary Herberger.
  • A $10 million commitment in 2008 by ASU alum Brian Swette to create the Swette Intellectual Fusion Investment Fund at ASU, which has advanced the development of alternative fuels, child development, the evolution of human traits and sustainable technologies.
  • A $10 million investment in 2012 by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust to improve health care delivery through education, research and clinical practice.
  • $8 million in support of student scholarships, Sun Devil Athletics facilities, ASU Gammage, Sun Devil Marching Band, ASU President’s Club, Women & Philanthropy, KAET-TV 8 from Cathy and Verde Dickey.
  • A $5.4 million donation by Orin Edson to fund the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative
  • Connie and Craig Weatherup’s $5 million investment in the 30,000-square-foot Weatherup Center, a state-of-the art indoor practice facility and training center for the men’s and women’s basketball teams.
  • The dedication of the James Turrell Skyspace in the Diane and Bruce Halle in recognition of the Halle’s longtime philanthropy at ASU, including a gift that led to the establishment of the Diane Halle Center for Family Justice at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, as well as the couple’s investment in the Mayo Medical School – Arizona campus, a collaboration between Mayo and ASU.
  • The construction of the Verde Dickey Dome and naming of the Verde Dickey East Athletic Village in recognition of Cathy and Verde Dickey’s philanthropic contributions to Sun Devil Athletics, the Sun Devil Marching Band and ASU’s students and programs.

In 2002, the Women & Philanthropy community engagement program launched, joining the ASU President’s Club as a high-participation community engagement program of the foundation.

In 2013, ASU announced the creation of the Trustees of ASU, a board made up of leadership donors that serves as an advisory body for the university and President Crow. The new Trustees of ASU represents an evolution of the trustee concept, allowing the board to serve colleges and institutes across the university. The Trustees of ASU will advise the ASU president on philanthropic opportunities, provide insight into new resources for the university and offer strategies for increasing affinity of donors for the institution.

Today, the ASU Foundation for A New American University strives to become a “New American University Foundation,” matching donors’ passions with research and programs at ASU that are working on the solutions to society’s greatest challenges; it’s guiding principle is that financial support is best advanced by determining and aligning the motivations and aspirations of our investors with the university’s mission. The foundation’s mission is simple and straightforward: to ensure the success of ASU as a New American University. It’s values indisputable: We Serve. We Engage. We Innovate. We Care.