Dr. Robert J. Piersol valued education — both for himself and others — having grown up in a home where almost everyone had advanced degrees.

Piersol once wrote that he was lucky enough to have a few careers as a design and development engineer, an economics analyst and a professor of management in the Craig School of Business at Fresno State, said Marie Crosson, his niece and executor of his estate.

“Later in his life, he noted at one of his reunions that ultimately his greatest accomplishment was being a teacher,” Crosson said.

Piersol, a Fresno State professor emeritus, left his $1.7 million estate to the Craig School to develop a scholarship program for graduate students. He died in May 2018 but knew almost two decades ago he wanted to leave whatever he had to Fresno State, Crosson said.

He could have easily left the gift to Stanford University, where he earned his Master of Business Administration, or to Harvard University, where he got a doctorate in business administration. But Piersol “wrote that he wanted to make sure his money would support students who might otherwise not be able to attend the University and gain what he thought was a great gift — a formal education,” Crosson said.

“He loved the University. He loved his students. He loved young people,” she said.

Piersol is among the 11,577 people who contributed about $27.6 million to Fresno State during the 2018-19 academic year — $20.7 million for academics and $6.9 million for athletics. That’s a 23% increase in overall giving from the year before.

Alumni participation was also up about 17%, a testament to the importance alumni see in supporting students and the programs that helped them succeed.

“Fresno State’s ability to make a positive impact in the Central Valley and beyond is possible because of our alumni, donors and friends, and we’re grateful for their continued generosity,” said University President Joseph I. Castro. “Our campus supporters continue furthering the legacy of philanthropy and commitment to advance our mission to boldly educate and empower students for success, and to strengthen educational programs that deliver innovative solutions for local and global challenges.”

Here is a look at some of the other noteworthy gifts that touched all corners of the Fresno State campus last year:

  • $1 million commitment from the Leon S. Peters Foundation, Inc. to support the Leon S. Peters Outdoor Event Plaza in the New Student Union. The Peters Foundation has been a longtime partner of the University from supporting scholarships to capital projects, including the Leon S. Peters Ellipse Gallery in the Henry Madden Library and the Armenian Genocide Monument.
  • $1 million from the Spencer Family Charitable Foundation to support athletics, the Lyles College of Engineering, the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology and the President’s Circle of Excellence. This gift continues the family’s longtime investment and partnership with the University.
  • $300,000 from Ritchie Clendenin for the Clendenin Brass Endowed Scholarship in the College of Arts and Humanities. Clendenin’s mother, June, created an annual scholarship for music majors playing in the brass quintet in honor of her son, who was a brass music professor at Fresno State. After her death, Ritchie Clendenin grew the scholarship into an endowment in honor of his late mother.
  • $31,000 from Macy’s to support the Clothing Closet and the Student Cupboard’s annual March Match Up The Clothing Closet provides students with professional clothing for interviews, career fairs and first jobs. The Student Cupboard is a free food and hygiene pantry for current students.
  • $25,000 from alumni Ryan and Ashley Jacobsen to name the “The Ryan and Ashley Jacobsen Associated Students, Inc. President’s Office” in the New Student Union. Ryan Jacobsen served as ASI president from 2001-02 and 2002-03. Ashley Jacobsen was ASI’s vice president for finance from 2002-03. Both have continued to volunteer across campus since graduating, and Ryan Jacobsen has served as president of the Ag One Foundation and chair of the Business Advisory Council.

“It’s particularly gratifying to report that 1,609 new supporters contributed gifts of all sizes to financially support our students and campus direction, a 16% increase over last year,” said Paula Castadio, vice president for University Advancement. “Growing both the support base among our alumni and friends as well as the total dollar amount is a testament to Fresno State’s upward trajectory under President Castro’s leadership.”