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January 6, 2004

University Center Campaign Enters Final Stretch

The capital campaign to build a permanent University Center entered its final phase following the development that more than $650,000 has been pledged toward the project since a fundraising challenge was issued last fall.

Leading the list of challenge donors with a $250,000 contribution is Lennar Corp., the Florida firm heading up an acquisition of The Newhall Land & Farming Co. Other lead donors during the challenge period are KBZ Architects, Klassen Corp. and architectural firm Leo A. Daly, each of which pledged contributions of $100,000. An additional $102,000 was pledged by nine companies, organizations and individuals.

This latest round of pledges brings total contributions to more than $7 million, which includes $2.5 million in Measure C bond proceeds and a potential $2 million in city use-tax revenue. About $10 million is needed to build the center, which will rise on the southwest corner of the College of the Canyons campus.

Late last year, three donors gave a significant boost to the capital campaign by pledging a combined $750,000 and issuing a challenge that raised its potential value to $1.25 million. Newhall Land pledged $250,000 outright, and the Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation pledged $50,000 per year for five years ­ provided an equal amount is raised each year. And, an anonymous benefactor sent in a check for $50,000 and a pledge for $200,000 more provided the College of the Canyons Foundation, which is handling the fundraising campaign, raised at least $250,000 by December 31, 2003.
“University Center is an integral part of the Santa Clarita Valley’s future success and vitality,” said Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook, superintendent-president of College of the Canyons. “I’m proud that these donors stepped up to the plate to ensure that all those who desire to better themselves through higher education will be able to do so.”

University Center is an innovative concept in which students earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, as well as specialized certificates, right on the College of the Canyons campus. The idea is to eliminate long commutes to distant college campuses and provide convenient access to higher education by bringing the colleges and universities to the Santa Clarita Valley.

It is, in fact, much more than a concept. Although the permanent building hasn’t been built, University Center is already up and running in an interim facility. Two-hundred-eighty-seven people have earned degrees ­ most of them at the graduate level ­ in the interim facility’s first 18 months of operation.

Current partner institutions include Chapman University, University of La Verne, Woodbury University, California Lutheran University, English Language Schools, California State University Bakersfield, Cal State University Northridge and Cal State University Fresno. Discussions are under way with other institutions, as well.

The Interim University Center offers a wide assortment of degree programs, such as business administration, child development, communications, computer science, criminal justice, educational counseling, health administration, nursing, psychology and social sciences. More degree programs, especially those that have been in demand locally, will be launched as more universities enter the consortium.

Heading the capital campaign are Tom Lee, retired CEO of Newhall Land, and Lou Garasi, chairman and CEO of Gruber Systems. Honorary chairman is U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, and chairman of the campaign’s Lead Gifts Committee is Dick Luechtefeld, senior vice president of investments for Morgan Stanley.