Supporting Student Success since 1941

For over 80 years,  the Cal Poly Corporation has proudly served the university, supporting the educational mission and providing quality services, which complement the instructional program. The corporation is a nonprofit auxiliary organization and independent of the university, which allows us to retain earnings and put them to work for the university. Over the years, the corporation has contributed greatly to the success of students and the university in a number of ways as you can see below.


Cal Poly President Julian McPhee creates the Cal Poly Foundation (now the Cal Poly Corporation) as a way to keep surplus earnings on campus to support the university. Shortly thereafter, the corporation leases out Cal Poly land to operate a naval flight school, keeping the school open during World War II. The corporation also assumes responsibility for the Cafeteria-Dormitory fund and opens cafeteria number one. Meal tickets were $33 per month.


University Dining Room, Building 19, is completed and the corporation took operating control of the El Corral bookstore, now known as the University Store. Later in the decade, the corporation assumed fiscal administration of the student-run printing operation, University Graphic Services, as well as provided funds and loan guarantees for Union construction.


The university formally starts fundraising and the corporation provides staff to support Cal Poly’s first annual giving campaign. To ensure that the funds are well maintained for future use, the corporation enlists professional investment guidance.


The corporation created the Sponsored Programs department to oversee awards and restricted gifts, administering almost $1 million in grants.


Al Smith, the owner of Orchard Supply Hardware, bequeathed his 3,200 acres in Santa Cruz County known as Swanton Pacific Ranch and another 600-acre parcel to the corporation for the benefit of the College of Agriculture. During this decade, Cal Poly Downtown opens, selling Cal Poly branded merchandise to alumni and students.


The Cal Poly Foundation, a separate philanthropic nonprofit auxiliary, is created and takes over fundraising and gift management. The corporation assumes management of the Technology Park, an on-campus facility for tech businesses, particularly firms engaged in applied research and development.


With corporation support, the SLO Hothouse and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship lease office space downtown. Conference and Event Planning becomes an operation of the corporation. And the corporation accepts the Bartleson Ranch and Conservatory donation, a 450-acre avocado and lemon ranch in southern San Luis Obispo County valued at $11.3 million – one of the largest private land donations in the university’s history.


The corporation completes one of the largest capital projects in its history, with the construction of the LEED Gold Certified, Vista Grande Dining Complex. The Board of Directors approves the largest single donation in the corporation’s history with a $5 million contribution to the construction of the William and Linda Frost Center for Research and Innovation. This is the start of a $75 million investment in new and upgraded facilities to improve the student experience.

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