CSUN, CSUF, Cal Poly Pomona each receive $40M donations from billionaire MacKenzie Scott

A host of SoCal charities, arts institutions and universities were among the financial beneficiaries of MacKenzie Scott's latest round of philanthropic donations, which this time totaled $2.739 billion and went to 286 equity-oriented organizations.

The ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has pledged to give away the bulk of her fortune from the former couple's divorce settlement. She's given away more than $8 billion so far. Forbes estimates her net worth at roughly $60 billion.

In a Medium blog announcement about the third round of donations, Scott said she and her team, including husband Dan Jewett, "are all attempting to give away a fortune that was enabled by systems in need of change. In this effort, we are governed by a humbling belief that it would be better if disproportionate wealth were not concentrated in a small number of hands, and
that the solutions are best designed and implemented by others.''

The unrestricted grants will go to a wide range of organizations, including many in Southern California:

-- A Place Called Home in Los Angeles;
-- Arts for Healing and Justice Network in Long Beach;
-- Asian Pacific Community Fund in Los Angeles;
-- Cal Poly Pomona;
-- Cal State Channel Islands;
-- Cal State Fullerton;
-- Cal State Northridge;
-- Center for Cultural Innovation in Los Angeles;
-- Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga;
-- College of the Desert in Palm Desert;
-- East West Players in Los Angeles;
-- Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles;
-- Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles;
-- L.A. Arts Endowment Fund;
-- Long Beach City College;
-- Pasadena City College;
-- Santa Barbara City College; and
-- Self Help Graphics & Art in Los Angeles.

"Because we believe that teams with experience on the front lines of challenges will know best how to put the money to good use, we encouraged them to spend it however they choose. Many reported that this trust significantly increased the impact of the gift,'' Scott wrote on her blog.

"People struggling against inequities deserve center stage in stories about change they are creating,'' she said. "This is equally -- perhaps especially -- true when their work is funded by wealth. Any wealth is a product of a collective effort that included them. The social structures that inflate
wealth present obstacle s to them. And despite those obstacles, they are providing solutions that benefit us all.''

Homeboy Industries CEO Thomas Vozzo confirmed that the nonprofit – dedicated to helping formerly incarcerated and gang-involved individuals rehabilitate and re-enter society -- received a grant for $20 million. 

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"We are incredibly honored and humbled to receive this extraordinary gift from a game-changing philanthropist committed to the notion that there is no us and them, only us,'' he said. "We will use this gift to address critical housing needs and job creation in a post-pandemic world, while building
enduring strength for years to come as we invest in the next generation of future Homeboy leaders.''

East West Players Producing Artistic Director Snehal Desai praised Scott's generosity to the Asian American theatre company.

"East West Players is incredibly honored to be a recipient of Mackenzie Scott's extraordinary philanthropy,'' Desai said. "In her announcement today, Scott's sentiment that, 'people struggling against inequities deserve center stage in stories about change they are creating,' encapsulates the core purpose of East West Players' work. In a time when hate crimes against Asian and Asian Americans continue to increase exponentially, this investment will ensure that the work of East West Players will continue to speak up and speak out against systemic injustice.''

For some educational organizations, like Cal State Fullerton, a donation of $40 million from Scott is the largest the university has ever received. The same is true for Long Beach City College, which received $30 million.

"This is the single largest donation the college has received in its almost 95-year history, and one of largest single-donor gifts given to a California Community College,'' according to LBCC.

Long Beach Community College District Board of Trustees President Uduak-Joe Ntuk said he is grateful for the gift, which will contribute to the district's equity and racial justice work.

"These funds will expand on that work to accelerate academic outcomes, increase economic opportunity and expand upward mobility for generations of LBCC students,'' he said.

CSUN President Erika D. Beck, who said the university received $40 million, also the largest gift from a single donor in the institution's history, called the funding "transformative'' for the institution.

The gift, she said, "provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to advance our future as leaders in equity-centered student success to provide a brighter and more equitable future for our students, their families and the communities we are so proud to serve.''

Cal Poly Pomona also received $40 million, its largest-ever individual donation. University President Soraya M. Coley said the generosity will change lives. 

"We are very proud that Cal Poly Pomona is the number one polytechnic university in the nation in advancing student social mobility. This tremendous gift will play a vital role in sustaining and growing our unparalleled student success,'' she said.