Partnering in Mustang Success Since 1941

It’s been more than 80 years since the California Polytechnic Foundation, as we were known back then, created a naval flight school during World War II to help keep California Polytechnic School open. Since then, our partnership with the university has grown and diversified. Today we proudly serve the university, supporting the educational mission and providing quality services, which complement the instructional program.


Cal Poly President Julian McPhee creates the California Polytechnic Foundation as a way to keep surplus earnings on campus to support the university. Shortly thereafter, the foundation leases out Cal Poly land to operate a naval flight school, keeping the school open during World War II. The foundation also assumes responsibility for the Cafeteria-Dormitory fund and opens cafeteria number one. Meal tickets were $33 per month.


University Dining Room, Building 19, is completed and the foundation takes operating control of the El Corral bookstore, now known as the Mustang Shop. Later in the decade, the foundation assumes fiscal administration of the student-run printing operation, University Graphic Services, as well as provided funds and loan guarantees for union construction.


The university formally starts fundraising and the foundation provides staff to support Cal Poly’s first annual giving campaign. To ensure that the funds are well maintained for future use, the foundation enlists professional investment guidance.


The foundation creates the Sponsored Programs office to oversee awards and restricted gifts, administering almost $1 million in grants.


Al Smith, the owner of Orchard Supply Hardware, bequeathed his 3,200 acres in Santa Cruz County known as Swanton Pacific Ranch and another 600-acre parcel to the foundation for the benefit of the College of Agriculture. During this decade, Cal Poly Downtown opens, selling Cal Poly branded merchandise to alumni and students.


The Cal Poly Foundation becomes the Cal Poly Corporation. The Cal Poly Foundation becomes a separate philanthropic nonprofit auxiliary and takes over fundraising and gift management. The corporation assumes management of the Technology Park, an on-campus facility for tech businesses, particularly firms engaged in applied research and development.


With corporation support, the SLO Hothouse and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship lease office space downtown. Conference and Event Planning becomes an operation of the corporation. And the corporation accepts the Bartleson Ranch and Conservatory donation, a 450-acre avocado and lemon ranch in southern San Luis Obispo County valued at $11.3 million – one of the largest private land donations in the university’s history.


The corporation completes one of the largest capital projects in its history, with the construction of the LEED Gold Certified Vista Grande Dining Complex. The Board of Directors approves the largest single donation in the corporation’s history with a $5 million contribution to the construction of the William and Linda Frost Center for Research and Innovation. Work is completed on 1901 Marketplace. The renovated dining facility opens capping off a $100 million investment in new and upgraded facilities to improve the student experience. Cal Poly Corporation changes its name to Cal Poly Partners, to better align with its mission.