The Merchants Association of Fresno has contributed a $1.7 million cash gift to California State University, Fresno to establish a scholarship and fellowship program for business students.

Dr. Fred Evans, dean of the Sid Craig School of Business, announced the gift today and said it is the largest single cash contribution ever received by the school.

“This generous gift is a major shot in the arm for students studying business, for the Sid Craig School of Business, and for the university,” said Evans. “We are very grateful and pleased that the Merchant’s Association has chosen to show its appreciation to the community by contributing to the education of business students.”

Larry D. Wages, president of the Merchants Association, said the gift was made because the association’s board of directors wanted to continue the community involvement concepts established by the Fresno businessmen that organized the company in 1911.

“The legacy of the Merchants Association will continue by assisting the Craig School of Business in training future businessmen and women,” said Wages. “The business school scholarships should help attract quality students from central California high schools to prepare them as business owners and managers.”

Stan Kemmer, chairman of the association’s board, emphasized that, as a local organization with over 750 business members, “these business owners and managers are making a large and lasting financial commitment to deserving students from the seven county area of central California.”

The Merchants Association of Fresno was organized April 7, 1911, by local businesses to promote harmony among the trade interests of Fresno County, the regulation of business advertising practices, establishment of laws, promotion of business intercourse and to issue credit ratings and reports.

Evans said 75 percent of the proceeds from the endowment will be used to establish the Fresno Merchants Scholars Program for undergraduate students, and 25 percent will create the Fresno Merchants Graduate Fellows Program for MBA graduate fellowships.

The scholarship for undergraduates, who will be designated Fresno Merchants Scholars, will be a four year award offered to incoming freshmen and renewable to qualified students for three years or until the student graduates, whichever is sooner.

Graduate recipients, who will be known as Fresno Merchants Fellows, will receive one-year fellowships renewable for a maximum of two years. Individual fellowship awards will include, on a rotating basis, the name of individual Merchants members.

Scholarships will be given to candidates with outstanding academic and leadership potential. Preference will be given to qualified applicant’s from the Central Valley’s seven county area: Fresno, Madera, Tulare, Kern, Kings, Mariposa, and Merced.

A Wall Of Honor listing the names of the Fresno Merchants members will be unveiled at the Sid Craig School of Business at a special celebration scheduled for spring 1999.

Evans said the Merchants gift is the largest contribution received towards the Craig Match to date. In 1992, Sid and Jenny Craig donated $10 million to the university, prompting the naming of the school of business in their honor. Half was to be given over a ten-year period with the remaining $5 million to be a challenge fund to elicit gifts from other donors by the year 2001, generating a total of $15 million in donations.

The Merchants gift brings the Craig Match total to $3.4 million to date.