Fishbacks pledge up to $3 million to Honors College

Drue Aman

Van and Barb Fishback issued a fundraising challenge match that could bring millions of dollars to SDSU’s Honors College, broadening the college’s curriculum and increasing advising support.

The key incentive: the Fishbacks will donate two dollars for every dollar raised or pledged. That means $1.5 million in private donations will be doubled by the Fishbacks, amounting to a $4.5 million endowment goal to be reached by the end of next year.

Why that figure? For starters, enrollment in the Honors College has doubled since 2008 without acquiring new staff members and moving its headquarters to Hilton M. Briggs Library last year. Honors College Dean Tim Nichols said the time seemed appropriate, but an extensive process to finalize the fund took months and included revisions from third parties. The college sought input from current honors students, evaluated potential funding requirements and looked at other honors programs nationwide in coming up with an agreement.

“To really have a transformational impact, to really get us in the game at the national level … this was sort of getting us out the gate and (will) make a big impact, this is where where we’d like to be,” Nichols said of the Fishbacks’ fundraising challenge.

Nichols hopes to eclipse $1 million raised by Hobo Day in November, $500,000 short of the $1.5 million goal needed to match the $4.5 million challenge. One family raised $100,000 alone, Nichols said. For a college that has only been around for 11 years with seven years of graduates, the response has been resoundingly productive despite the lower alumni base, he said.

Students and faculty members involved in the Honors College are excited about the new opportunities presented with raised funds. Math professor Dan Kemp has taught honors calculus for several years and believes the course goal is to expand on more than the basics of the subject.

“They can go on trips, visit other honors conventions and things like that,” said Kemp, who has taught at SDSU since 1975. “We’ve had a chance to bring a few, but now we can bring more to those things – that’s a big help for (the) program.”

Honors students wanted an expanded curriculum and more committed staff members. Lyntausha Kuehl, president of the honors college’s student organization said the college has exceeded expectations even before the Fishbacks’ donation.

“We’re pretty thrilled about it,” she said. “I’m happy to see it double, as irreplaceable as they are it’d be nice to see a couple more people helping out but they’ve held their own.”

Funding for the college will also focus on financial raises on professor’s who teach an honor’s class. Nichols said another area will emphasize hiring a professional adviser available to all students in the college. Donations will be accepted through the end of next year to meet the fundraising challenge.

“We feel good about where we’re at,” Nichols said.

The Fishbacks have provided donations to SDSU before, donating $1 million helping with the university’s “It Starts with STATE” campaign. That money was matched by other donors, giving the SDSU Foundation $2 million for the campaign fund that seeks to raise $200 million over six years.