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Support for growth and success is a key Sac State legacy

Sac State takes pride in its first-generation students, who represent hope and achievement for their families. (Sacramento State/Nicole Fowler)

In 1953, Sacramento State moved from its rented quarters at Sacramento Junior College, where it came into being in 1947, to a 300-acre site at 6000 J St., land where farmers had once grown hops and peaches. 

Sacramento State College, as it was known then, went from offering a few upper-division courses to four full years of college, a master’s program, and advanced teaching credentials.

The registrar announced the enrollment of 2,819 students for the new semester, including 12 from countries as far away as Iran and Greece. 

Its beginnings were relatively modest, but the institution that grew into modern Sacramento State was and continues to be nourished by a generous community - which is at the heart of On The Rise: The Campaign for Sacramento State. (Photo courtesy of University Archives)

“The college is going places and fast,” declared an editorial by The Sacramento Bee on Oct. 5, 1953: “In a brief six years not only has the attendance increased more than 10-fold, but a fine campus and handsome buildings on the attractive American River site are something of which the institution justly can be proud, as are all who visit it.”

With a campus of its own, a new generation of students, and a supportive community, Sacramento State aimed high.

“We see no reason why Sacramento State College cannot become one of this city’s finest assets and a source of pride and satisfaction to the community,” wrote Sacramento State’s first president, Guy A. West, in a letter to the editor printed on Oct. 12, 1953.

As construction continued into the 1960s, programs, athletics, and social identity developed. Fervent activism set the stage for the creation of academic centers devoted to equity and student success.

In 1972, the college became California State University, Sacramento, and grew into the sixth-largest of the 23 campuses in the CSU system.

Today, Sacramento State is a thriving University where inclusion and diversity are celebrated aspects of campus culture and approximately 9,000 students graduate every year.

More than 60% of Sacramento State’s 250,000-plus alumni work in the region and help drive the state’s top industries forward – from government and technology, to engineering and business, to health and the arts.

Individually, alumni are shaping influential careers, building prosperous lives for themselves and their families. Collectively, they are building a strong economy and transforming communities in Sacramento, Northern California, and beyond.

“An educated workforce is critical to the economic vitality of our region,” said Garry Maisel ’80 (Business Administration), a member of the University Foundation at Sacramento State Board of Directors, and president and CEO of Western Health Advantage.

President Robert S. Nelsen met Maisel in 2015 as the University prepared for its first major philanthropic campaign and asked if a fundraising goal of $225 million was too ambitious.

“Absolutely not,” Maisel answered.

“Sacramento State is at the heart of what makes this region work,” Maisel said. “It’s critical that we raise funds to support Sac State’s growth, and that’s why this campaign is so very important to Sacramento and to our entire region.”

On March 16, Sacramento State publicly launched On the Rise: The Campaign for Sacramento State, a comprehensive campaign to support a rich, student-centric academic experience and bring the dream of a college education within reach for more and more students. The campaign’s goal is to raise $225 million.

The theme is meant to illuminate Sacramento State’s rise as a University that, as The Bee predicted nearly 60 years ago, is going places, and fast.

“Throughout the history of this campus, Sacramento State has demonstrated an upward trajectory, and our momentum is building,” Nelsen said. “This continual rise is fueled by our students, our faculty, our staff, our alumni, our community, and our donors. We are not satisfied with having potential. We must provide the tools that transform potential into discovery and innovation.”


Making an impact that will last for generations

The promise of educational excellence, inclusion and diversity has made Sac State a destination for students from across racial, social, and economic spectrums. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

Donors have had a notable impact on the University, such as providing resources to double the number of Sacramento State student scholarships; expanding courses and academic programs; upgrading and adding equipment; and accelerating the expansion of labs and research areas.

A science facility and planetarium, among the most significant additions in Sacramento State’s history, opened in 2019, made possible in part by a $9 million naming gift from local philanthropist and entrepreneur Ernest E. Tschannen, for whom the Science Complex was named.

There, students use cutting-edge technology, work alongside professors, and study and address critical issues such as climate change, healthy aging, and the sustainable use of natural resources.

A $6 million gift from businessman and Sacramento State alum Dale Carlsen ’84 (Business Administration) and his wife, Katy, launched the University’s Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in 2017. It also broadened Sacramento State’s work as an anchor university, a designation that calls for Sac State to align its resources and efforts to cultivate and develop long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with partners in pioneering endeavors to address our community’s priorities.

The Carlsen Center established programs to make it a hub for entrepreneurship and innovation in the Sacramento region, serving not only students with dreams of launching their own business or nonprofit, but community members as well.

Maisel, who joined the On the Rise campaign as co-chair and has said he shares the Carlsens’ belief in the power of entrepreneurship, presented a $1 million check to the Carlsen Center in 2019 on behalf of Western Health Advantage. 

The gift supports growth and excellence for the University’s annual Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), during which students from different academic backgrounds learn how to think and lead with an entrepreneurial mindset.

In March 2020, the CSU Board of Trustees accepted a $27.4 million land gift of 300 acres in unincorporated Placer County, the largest gift in Sacramento State's history, from Placer Ranch, Inc., owned by philanthropist Eli Broad. Planners expect to break ground there within a few years on the Sacramento State Placer Center, which is expected to serve hundreds of full-time students living in one of the state’s fastest-growing areas.

Placer County has also invested roughly $17.8 million in the center’s infrastructure, allowing capacity to expand eventually to meet the needs of tens of thousands of students. With CSU approval, the center eventually could become a full-fledged university.

Academically, Sacramento State will collaborate with Sierra College, one of its largest feeder schools, with the goal of providing a seamless transition to a four-year degree. The Placer Center will expand access to a Sacramento State degree while introducing a new partnership model in public higher education.

Transforming lives

One of the most impactful ways to transform the life of a Sacramento State student is through one of the many scholarships available at the University.

Sage Beamon is a first-generation college student who received the Laurie McBride endowed scholarship, which covers tuition. She is on track to graduate in 2021 with her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies and minors in Marketing and Sociology.

“When students come to Sacramento State, they bring with them promise, tenacity, and valuable life experiences.”

– President Robert S. Nelsen

“This scholarship is going to be life-changing in more than just monetary means,” Beamon said. “It’s fueling the drive I have for advocacy. It’s fueling my desire to want to help others. And it’s fueling (my feeling of) comfort that things are going to be all right monetarily.”

Nearly one-third of Sacramento State students are the first in their family to go to college.

A degree can be transformative, fulfilling aspirations, changing the course of individual lives and the lives of generations to come, observers agree.

Campaign leaders say On the Rise supports the whole student with resources for social, physical, and mental health, as well as academic support. Student success centers provide tutoring, academic advising, coaching, mentoring, and peer-advising support. 

“When students come to Sacramento State, they bring with them promise, tenacity, and valuable life experiences,” Nelsen said. “It is our responsibility and our honor to care for our students, to support their aspirations, and ensure we provide them with the programs and services that address their individual and collective needs.

“We are passionate about preparing students for their journey. They are the leaders and change-makers who will chart the course of our community and our region.”

A community that cares

“Creating a culture of philanthropy at a university means that everybody around you cares enough to give of their financial resources or time to make a difference in someone’s life,” said Tracy Newman, associate vice president for Development, the University’s fundraising arm.

“So how do we get our alumni, friends of the University, and the community behind our message, that we are incredibly special here and deserving of that support? You give to what you care the most deeply about,” she said.Philanthropists come from all walks of life, and support what they love.

Hazel Cramer was a bookkeeper for the state of California who never finished college. She was introduced to Sacramento State through the Renaissance Society, a learning program for older adults in the community. Cramer contributed to student scholarships and, when she died, left more than $3.5 million to the University through her estate.

Of that gift, $1 million was used to create the Hazel Cramer Endowed Chair in the Department of Public Policy and Administration. Endowed chairs and professorships enhance Sacramento State’s teaching mission, with students gaining both theoretical knowledge and hands-on learning.

Peter H. Shattuck was a favorite professor in the Department of History who earned an Outstanding Teaching Award. His family honored his legacy by funding the Peter H. Shattuck Chair in Colonial American History. Shattuck taught his students that to understand the present they need to understand the past, and the family’s gift helps ensure that his philosophy endures.

Herb Drummond was a campus librarian for many years who directed $500,000 from his estate to his beloved University Library. That money will help the Library to establish a maker space near the Carlsen Center where students can explore ideas and faculty can bring a maker curriculum to their courses.


Every gift has significance and makes a difference

Success on the football field relies on the concept of team and collective effort. Former football players applied this concept to fundraising and helped raise $249,000 for the new Football Summer Scholarship Program, which would allow up to 83 student-athletes to continue their studies, nutrition, and training. When enrolled in such a program, NCAA rules allow for student-athletes to be coached during the summer, and valuable academic progress can be made.

During Give Sac State Day 2020, the Sac State community united once again with 780 individuals making gifts totaling $213,187. More than 100 funds and academic programs received gifts, including Sac State CARES and the Associated Students Inc. Food Pantry to help students with emergency aid and basic needs, demonstrating the collective impact all gifts can make.

Student success remains top of mind at Sacramento State, and giving to the University is seen as a way to help ensure that students will thrive in the classroom, and later, in their careers.

“Sac State is a key lever, a launch pad for so many people in the region.”

– Rabbil Green ’06

“Even when I didn’t realize it, I was on the rise. Sac State was positioning me to be on the rise,” said Rabbil Green ’06 (Communication Studies), who worked his way through school and occasionally had to choose between tuition or rent. So, he lived out of his car.

Green entered civil service upon graduation. He returned to Sacramento State to earn his professional certification as an instructional designer through the College of Continuing Education

The college called him a couple of years ago, this time to teach in the program, bringing Green full circle. He also serves on the Sacramento State Alumni Association Board of Directors.

“Sac State is a key lever, a launch pad for so many people in the region,” he said. “This whole region really is on the rise and continues to rise.”


Everything Sacramento State does for its students can be amplified with your gift. On the Rise invites alumni, friends, and the community to join with the University in investing in our students and their futures.

VIDEO: Watch the comprehensive campaign rollout

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About News and Advancement Staff

Sacramento State’s News and Communications team writes and shares stories about the University, its students, faculty, and alumni, revealing the accomplishments, achievements and milestones that characterize its standing as an educational leader and an important community center. The department’s writers, editors and public relations personnel look across the broad spectrum of the campus and the people who thrive here to support the University’s mission.

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