Paul Jennings ’85 (Marketing), one of California State University, Northridge’s most illustrious and philanthropic graduates, has announced a $500,000 challenge grant for the CSUN College of Business and Economics. For every dollar donated to the college, Jennings will match the contributions one-to-one, giving the college an unprecedented opportunity to raise $1 million.
“I’m hoping this gift becomes a catalyst for others to do the same, to start giving back to an institution that has made an incredible economic impact on the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles as a whole,” said Jennings.
While CSUN has had a tremendous impact on the region for the last 50 years, Jennings’ challenge grant also recognizes the impact the university had on him personally. Throughout his career as the owner of successful telecommunications and real estate businesses, Jennings relied on his CSUN education. “As an alum, when you start getting later in life, you have the privilege of looking back and connecting dots in your life,” he said. “Now that I’ve had 30 years to apply the education I received at Northridge, I have a growing sense of the meaningful impact of it.”
From consumer behavior to business law t o managerial accounting, the classes Jennings took as an undergrad at CSUN have directly informed his business decisions for the last 30 years.
Jennings also hopes his gift will highlight the continuing importance and growth of CSUN and the College of Business and Economics in particular. As Jennings said, “We are all inundated with choices of worthy causes to donate to, so I consider where I can make the best impact with the money I’m going to give. When I see the quality of students at Northridge, many of whom are getting their education through their own set of adversities, whether it’s working full time or being the first in their family to attend college, I know that these students will become some of our community’s most productive members.”
Jennings himself found CSUN through a nontraditional path. He initially came to California in 1980 to work in Lockheed Martin’s Burbank Skunk Works after completing vocational training in aerospace manufacturing. Realizing that a college education would further his career prospects, Jennings took courses at Valley College and College of the Canyons before starting night classes in business at CSUN, where he was exposed to a new, important set of peers.
“I quickly appreciated the dialogues with my classmates, who were in the business community,” he said. Jennings worked his way through school selling long distance phone plans before spinning off to form his own company that specialized in prison phone systems.
In addition to his generous financial contributions, Jennings also volunteers his time at the college, participating in the annual Professor for a Day event, serving on the college’s advisory board and mentoring students. “One of the most meaningful things I can do with my time is give back to young kids,” he said. “At CSUN, there’s not just the opportunity to give money, there’s also the opportunity to get involved with students who are very eager and appreciative for alums to share their experiences.”
“Northridge has a rich body of alums, who all have stories to tell,” continued Jennings. “The best way to carry on that tradition is for those folks to start giving back so that the story continues for the next generation.”
To contribute to the College of Business and Economics and have your donation matched one-to-one by Jennings, go to give.csun.edu/business.
For information on volunteering with the college, contact Matt Rinnert at matt.rinnert [at] csun [dot edu].