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CSU trustees approve naming of planned new engineering building for philanthropist Ernest E. Tschannen

CSU trustees have approved the naming of a new engineering building on campus to the Ernest E. Tschannen Engineering Teaching and Research Building in recognition of a $10 million gift from Tschannen, a prominent philanthropist.

“I’m just thankful that I’m able to help the University,” Tschannen said. “It is beneficial to the whole area and, of course, to the students. They have a better life, they have good jobs, and thanks to the University, they can get a good education here. I’m all for that.”

The approval was announced Wednesday, Nov. 16, during a regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting.

The new building will replace the aging Santa Clara Hall. Tentative plans call for a facility larger than 100,000 square feet that will include teaching and research labs, expandable and flexible classrooms, updated equipment to complement existing hardware, and group and interdisciplinary work spaces.

“We want to have spaces for our students to collaborate and interact,” said Kevan Shafizadeh, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. “That’s really what it’s going to be about, with hands-on equipment.”

Tschannen, 97, recently visited campus for an event to celebrate his contributions to the University. He joined Shafizadeh and other members of the campus community for a tour of Santa Clara Hall.

Shafizadeh showed Tschannen the building’s dated rooms and aging equipment, while highlighting what the impact of the new building would mean for student projects, research, and collaboration with industry in developing technological solutions After the tour, Shafizadeh thanked Tschannen for his continued investment in Sacramento State.  

“This is a wonderful celebration, and I’m glad we’re all here to celebrate Ernest’s gift to Sacramento State,” Shafizadeh said. “I cannot say in words the impact that this gift will have on not only the students going through our program, but the students that come to campus.”

"Mr. Tschannen is a true philanthropist whose commitment to changing the lives of our students has and will continue to be transformational." -- President Robert S. Nelsen

A new engineering building would be the second named building at Sac State and the second naming gift from Mr. Tschannen. In total, Tschannen has committed roughly $20 million to the university including $9 million to Ernest E. Tschannen Science Complex, which opened in 2019 and has already welcomed an estimated 1,550 students for astronomy courses.  

“Mr. Tschannen is a true philanthropist whose commitment to changing the lives of our students has and will continue to be transformational,” President Robert S. Nelsen said. “His gift to name a new engineering building will contribute to our ability to one day build a modern facility so that we can meet the incredible demand for engineers to solve complex problems we have yet to imagine.

“Thanks to Mr. Tschannen, our students will be well-equipped to innovate, discover, and potentially lead future energy initiatives.”

Following the success of Sac State’s On the Rise comprehensive fundraising campaign, Tschannen “recognized the impact of the Science Complex on local learning and was inspired to make a greater impact,” said Antoinette Vojtech, executive director of principal gifts and campaigns for the University.

Vojtech said Tschannen’s motivations for supporting the University include a desire to give his money back to the community where he earned it. A native of Switzerland, Tschannen moved to the U.S. in the 1950s, living in Detroit and Minneapolis before coming to the Sacramento area.

He worked as a mechanical engineer while engaging in his hobby of buying residential properties. Eventually, he became a full-time real estate investor. In addition to his contributions to Sac State, Tschannen has donated to several other causes, organizations, and education institutions.

“The approval … from the trustees showcases their commitment to the power of philanthropy and their commitment to an individual who truly sees the impact of giving to higher education,” Vojtech said.

The importance of this funding on uplifting the entire region, including supporting initiatives with community partners such as SMUD, the California Mobility Center, and the Placer Center was stressed by Lisa Cardoza, vice president for University advancement. “By allowing us to utilize the space to advance and work alongside key leaders in green technology across the region, Sacramento State is better positioned to advance faculty and students in crucial STEM fields, most importantly first-generation and underrepresented students.”

Ernest E. Tschannen holding a microphone and speaking
Philanthropist Ernest E. Tschannen, whose $10 million gift will support the construction of a new engineering building, also donated $9 million to help build the Tschannen Science Complex, which opened in 2019.


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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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