Local entrepreneur gives $125,000 to mentorship program

Fresno-based entrepreneur Claude Laval III pledged $125,000 in support of the Entrepreneur Mentor Program at the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fresno State. Laval has been involved with the program since its inception in 2005, first as co-founder and now as a mentor to burgeoning entrepreneurs.

The majority of Laval’s donation will establish the Betty Lou Laval Scholarship made available to students who participate in the Entrepreneur Mentor Program. A new student will be chosen every fall and spring semester to receive $2,500 for his or her commitment and dedication to the principles of the program.

This new scholarship replaces the Betty Lou Laval Entrepreneur Mentor Award, named for and given as a tribute to Claude Laval III’s late wife.

Laval married Betty Lou in 1958. The two met in kindergarten and began dating when he returned to the Valley after studying at Stanford University. They have two daughters, Luann Laval Williams and Melinda “Mendy” Laval Alkotob.

Laval is the chairman of LAKOS Separators and Filtration Solutions, a company he created in 1972. The business produces equipment used to remove solids from liquids. Products are made for a multitude of uses, including irrigation, industry and household. Alkotob serves as chief executive officer for the company.

“Claude Laval has been supporting entrepreneurship at Fresno State for over 35 years through a scholarship honoring his father, who was an entrepreneur like Claude,” said Riley Walter, a close friend of Laval’s and co-founder of the Entrepreneur Mentor Program. “This most recent fabulous gift will allow the Lyles Center to dramatically boost its mentorship program, which is already one of the best in the nation, in large part due to the fact that Claude is one of the longest-serving mentors.”

The Entrepreneur Mentor Program is designed to give students from any discipline the opportunity to learn from and build relationships with some of the most distinguished Central Valley leaders and entrepreneurs. Students are matched one-on-one with a mentor who best suits their area of interest. Students also have access to all mentors in the program and can continue to engage with mentors for years after completing the program.

“I am very impressed with the impact the Lyles Center has had on the students in the mentorship program,” Laval said. “I view it as a good investment. I have hired four of the students who have been in the program and found them very well prepared to succeed in business. You can be just as entrepreneurial in a larger company as you can starting your own.”

Laval places importance on volunteering and giving back, something he said he learned from watching his parents’ example. In addition to his support of and work with the Entrepreneur Mentor Program, he is the chairman of the Governance Committee of Foundation Financial Services at Fresno State. Laval is also one of the founders of the Fresno Business Council and has been an active participant in the Rotary Club for more than 50 years.

For additional information, contact Dr. Timothy Stearns at (559) 294-2045 or timothys@csufresno.edu.

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Kathleen Schock

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Director of Media and Development Communications, University Communications
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