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Thursday, December 2, 2021

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Alexis and Ron Fowler Alexis and Ron Fowler
 


Fowler Challenge Gift Keeps on Giving

As Ron and Alexis Fowler intended, their $25 million challenge gift has made a difference at SDSU.
By SDSU News Team
 

In 2016 San Diego State University’s Fowler College of Business was named for Ron and Alexis Fowler after the couple pledged a $25 million endowment gift to provide scholarships, professorships and expanded programming for SDSU business students. At the time, Ron Fowler said the largest philanthropic gift in the university’s history was intended to be “a difference maker” and “a launching pad for greatness” for the college.
 
The endowment was established as a matching gift with a challenge to the university and its alumni and supporters to raise an additional $25 million for the college. In just two and a half years, the Fowlers’ vision is materializing.

Matching gifts now total $5.5 million and the investments are paying off in many ways, perhaps most significantly in a leader who occupies the first endowed position for an academic dean at SDSU. Lance Nail, Ph.D., CFA, is the Thomas and Evelyn Page Dean at the Fowler College of Business.

Eighteen months into the job, Nail speaks with evangelical verve about his college’s Top 100 business programs and how the Fowler match has provided a boost for their continued ascendance. It’s one of the things that attracted him to SDSU.

“We actually had this opportunity to grow at a rapid pace and grow our reputation because of the Fowlers’ endowment,” the dean explained. “That was very alluring.”

Part of Nail’s mission to enhance the college’s reputation is to recruit and retain top-ranked thought leaders to join the highly regarded Fowler College faculty. Endowed chairs and professorships are essential in attracting that type of talent.

“A lot of times our currency is not so much monetary as it is prestige,” Nail said. “To hold an endowed chair of finance or an endowed chair of accounting carries a lot of currency in the academic disciplines.

“At most business schools of our size in the Top 100, probably at least 20 percent of their faculty are in endowed positions.  Currently, we only have one, so that’s an area we are investing in.”

Among the investors are Richard (’78) and Susan Seiler (’79), who were early participants in the Fowler match. The couple made a gift establishing the Richard and Susan Seiler Endowed Faculty Fellow in Taxation to support a faculty member in SDSU’s Charles Lamden School of Accountancy.

“When the match came along we realized it was an opportunity to not only elevate our level of participation but also to actually help make a bigger impact for the university,” Richard Seiler said. “Fellowships and chairs are going to make a difference attracting and maintaining high-quality faculty, and the match is a great incentive for people who really want to make an impact.”

An incentive to attract high-achieving students to the college is the new Fowler Scholars Program, which welcomed the inaugural freshman cohort in fall 2018. The program provides scholarship and programmatic opportunities for students who have an interest in entrepreneurship, innovation and economic development. It affords internships, mentors, entrepreneurial ventures, research opportunities and international experiences for qualified students. Fowler Scholars receive $35,000 to cover four years of tuition and a study abroad experience.

One of the students is Davis Boring, a 19-year-old musician and entrepreneur from San Diego, who runs his own instrument repair business. His test scores and academic achievements would likely qualify him for most universities in the country.

An offer from the Fowler Scholars Program sealed his attendance at SDSU, which he said had always been his first choice. “The financial aspect is a massive component,” Boring said.

In his first semester, Boring maintained a 3.81 GPA taking 19 units studying finance while participating in as many campus activities as he possibly could. Next year, he intends to become a resident assistant in a campus residence hall.

“I push myself to get as involved as I can in whatever I am interested in,” said Boring, who was an all-state clarinet player and a drum major in high school. He is exactly the type of student expected to thrive in the Fowler Scholars Program.

“We want them to accelerate their ability to be leaders in business,” Nail said. Plans call for expansion of the program to eventually include 12 Fowler Scholars in each incoming class for a total of 48 in any given four-year period.

Boring is the type of student Thomas Page describes when he talks about the SDSU graduates his company hired during his years as chairman, president and CEO of San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDG&E).

“Whether they were accountants or engineers, I hired a lot of people from San Diego State,” Page said. “They had a good education and they were work-ready.”

Page said he considers an investment in San Diego State to be “a high-value proposition.” That’s why he supplied the gift for the dean’s endowment, explaining that the Fowler match was too good a proposition to pass up.

“When I funded the dean’s chair, it wasn’t something within my budget to do by myself,” Page said, “but the Fowler match made it possible. How often do you get the chance to double your money overnight? The Fowler match allows an individual to do that with guaranteed odds.”

In addition to scholarships, endowed chairs, and endowed professorships, there are many additional opportunities to participate in the Fowler match.  To learn more, visit https://business.sdsu.edu/give.