By Colleen Cason
For the last 15 of his nearly 30 years spent working at Cal Lutheran, Steve Wheatly ’77, the newly retired vice president of university advancement, has shared inside stories about donors on an annual campus tour for fellow employees.
We figure the extra tour he gave this spring for CLU Magazine puts him in the company of others who’ve announced farewell tours in 2018, including Elton John and Paul Simon. With the difference that, for Wheatly, the rock stars are the generous men and women who built the university.
“I see the faces of many donors. I can hear their words,” he said. “I still remember the last time I saw them. Many left an imprint on me, the university and hopefully the students.”
Take the late Mary Mogen. “Mary was a sweetheart. She trusted me,” he said. Although she was struggling financially, her Lutheran faith inspired her to donate. Among the belongings she showed Wheatly in 1993 was an old shoebox held together with yellow duct tape and containing 500 shares of blue chip Standard Oil stock. Through a charitable gift annuity that Wheatly set up, Mogen received a comfortable income for the rest of her days out of that shoebox, and the baseball team got George “Sparky” Anderson Field. (Mogen’s name was placed on a dormitory.)
Dorothy “Dot” Hammond, a formidable churchwoman and donor to scholarships, set clearer boundaries, telling him, “You are going to get my money when I die, Steve, but if you try to get it while I am alive you will pull back bloody stumps.”
Through it all, Wheatly took inspiration from the university’s founding president, Orville Dahl, who wrote, “God has lighted our way. He opened the doors. He has given us visions of accomplishment beyond our hopes and our deserving.”
“My hope,” Wheatly said, “is that a freshman or sophomore looks at the plaques, sees those names and says, ‘I want to do that someday.’”
1. Pederson Administration Building For years, a dentist worked in this building, one of several services hosted on campus. When Wheatly came to work in the advancement office in 1992, there was a bump in the floor where the dentist’s chair had been.
2. Gilbert Sports and Fitness Center Hard to believe this popular complex nearly wasn’t built. Jack Gilbert, H’05, agreed to close a $1 million shortfall on May 31, 2004, the funding deadline. This was after donating early in the $18 million campaign. Gilbert and his son, Rod, H’16, were both moved by the story of Richard Pederson’s original gift of his ranch, when founding president Orville Dahl had nearly
despaired of finding the site for Cal Lutheran.
Joan and Richard Young Athletic Suite Location, location, location is the secret to real estate investment. Longtime Conejo Valley Realtor Joan Young valued this suite’s corner setting and its purpose to locate all athletic coaches in the same quarters.
Forrest Fitness Center A self-made millionaire and “country boy,” Arvis Forrest never set foot on the campus. His attorney, David Spurlock ’69, helped to arrange the $1 million gift from his estate.
3. George “Sparky” Anderson Baseball Field and Ullman Stadium Every time you take in a game here, you are sitting on a piece of major league history. The Los Angeles Dodgers organization donated the seats, which were removed from Dodger Stadium during a remodel. Former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley also donated to the stadium.
4. Overton Court This roadway bears the designation “court” — instead of, say, road or street — for Paul E. Overton, H’01, a retired judge of the San Diego Superior Court. The family has been generous to the university for years, and it was Becky (Overton ’72) France who looked to honor her father through the name.
5. Fredrickson Family Early Childhood Center
Pointing uphill to the center, Wheatly recalled a March day in 2011. It was love at first sight for staffers when they set foot in larger, kid-friendly new digs: “It was magic.” The building was funded primarily by the Fredrickson and Overton families.
6. William Rolland Stadium and Art Gallery. “There is a lot of Bill Rolland in this building,” Wheatly said. “His ideas changed the architecture of campus.” The gallery inside the stadium walls, the clock tower and a Jumbotron were all championed by this former firefighter who won the Medal of Valor for rescuing mudslide victims. Bill and Kay Rolland were married in 2011 beneath the stadium’s distinctive rotunda.
7. Ullman Commons Good enough has never been enough for the Ullman brothers. George “Corky” ’76 and Steve ’77 balked at putting their family name on the dining commons after plans were scaled back due to a fundraising shortfall. These versatile entrepreneurs donated the money necessary to restore key design features such as the pitched roof and soaring glass walls.
8. Nygreen Hall They say nothing is as permanent on a college campus as a temporary building. Nygreen, named for a family of university supporters, was erected in 1972 and still stands 46 years later.
9. Roy Richter Lecture Hall (in Ahmanson Science Center) An engineer, Roy Richter invented the famous Bell helmet to protect race car drivers in crashes. Daredevil Evel Knievel credited one with saving his life after his spectacular 1967 crash at Caesars Palace. This lecture hall was named for Roy posthumously while his wife, Colleen, donated $1 million for the science building that houses it on the first floor.
10. Soiland Humanities Center The late Marv Soiland’s support for this building ended a hiatus in construction on campus in 1998. Wheatly called the 30-year regent a “rock, mentor and the voice of reason.” Soiland’s first gift to the university was four horses for the equestrian program. He went on to become one of its most steadfast benefactors.
Kwan Fong Gallery of Art and Culture Built by the Kwan Fong Charitable Foundation established by Maria Lee and Katie Yang, this space in Soiland Humanities was the first to recognize the CLU’s Pacific Rim ties. Lee, a regent, was an artist. Yang was a diva of the Cantonese opera.
11. Spies-Bornemann Center for Education and Technology Built in 2002, this is the first building to bear the name of CLU alumni, thanks to a gift from the Spies-Bornemann family (see Swenson Center, below). More faculty members donated toward the $6 million, 20,000-square-foot space than to any other construction project on campus.
Newhouse Entrance Ernest “Doc” and Edna Newhouse had an unusual table in their home with legs made of stacked silver bars. Ernest, an automotive products entrepreneur, wanted a disaster fund in the event of the crash of the dollar. The couple believed in preparation, persistence and Lutheran higher education.
12. Swenson Center for the Social and Behavioral Sciences The country was deep in recession in 2008 when Wheatly approached a group of faithful, go-to donors. They pledged $8.5 million in six weeks. Along with Jim and Sue Swenson, H’12, this honor roll includes Marv and Fran Soiland, the Ullman Family Foundation, Karen Bornemann ’70 and Allan ’70 Spies, Kirsten (Bodding ’64) and Karsten ’65 Lundring, and Jack and Carol Gilbert. Swenson was the first building on campus to win certification for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.