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Over $1M Raised at Record-Breaking Fundraising Dinner

By Margaret Chantung

The inaugural CSUSM Blue & Silver Fundraising Dinner held on June 9 was a resounding success, breaking previous university fundraising event records by raising just over $1 million for social mobility and student success programs and initiatives in a single evening.  

The event, co-hosted by CSUSM President Ellen Neufeldt and the CSUSM Foundation Board, was attended by nearly 400 alumni, civic and industry leaders, and elected officials. It marked a significant milestone as the first major in-person fundraising event in four years following the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Keynote remarks by Neufeldt emphasized CSUSM’s top ranking position on the CollegeNet Social Mobility Index as well as the university’s commitment to increasing equitable educational access and attainment, leading to a strong talent pipeline for the region. CSUSM is a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution with a diverse student population – 70% are students of color, 12% are military affiliated and the campus serves the highest number of former foster youth per capita in the nation. CSUSM is also a major contributor of bachelor’s degree holders to the region’s workforce, with about 80% of students remaining in the region following graduation.  

“A remarkable 57% of (2023 graduates) were first in their families to earn a four-year degree; and 52% (of all CSUSM students) come from family households with a median income less than $60,000,” said Neufeldt, who shared that potential median post-graduation incomes are $85,000. “Beyond career success and economic gains, it’s personal impact that truly matters. Each graduate’s journey creates a ripple effect that touches not just their own lives but also the lives of their families and entire communities.” 

Neufeldt also highlighted innovative CSUSM programs such as The Alliance, Senior Experience, Summer Scholars, and the Innovation Hub as well as exciting projects on the horizon, including the Integrated Science and Engineering Building and a new affordable housing project that is scheduled to break ground in 2024. 

This October, the university will host a national Social Mobility Symposium for the third year in a row, bringing together thought leaders, higher education practitioners and community partners to engage in conversations around best practices. 

“Our vision is to create a Center for Social Mobility here at CSUSM and, through philanthropy, we can make that a reality, strengthening social mobility for our campus, our region, our nation and our world,” Neufeldt said. 

The evening of dining and dancing was capped with an exhilarating raise-the-paddle segment, magnified by the announcement of a generous one-to-one matching contribution from the Epstein Family Foundation. 

“We are incredibly impressed by CSUSM and President Ellen Neufeldt’s strong commitment to bridge the opportunity gap and create a more equitable and inclusive San Diego,” said Dan Epstein, who also serves as a director on the CSUSM Foundation Board. “As a regionally focused university with a highly diverse student population, CSUSM is one of the most transformative institutions in the San Diego region, impacting lives and entire communities.”      

Neufeldt closed her remarks with gratitude to the Epsteins as well as to Carol Lazier. Lazier, a quietly devoted San Diego philanthropist and community volunteer, supports numerous organizations across San Diego connected to the arts, education, health and youth. At CSUSM, she is a supporter of the music department as well as ACE Scholar Services for former foster youth. The morning of the dinner she called to share her plans to nearly triple her previously committed estate gift to CSUSM from $1.2 million to $4 million—the largest planned gift in the history of the university. 

“Education transforms lives and uplifts communities,” Lazier said. “It is an honor to support CSUSM’s mission of social mobility which invests in the next generation of talented individuals, ensuring they have the opportunities they deserve to thrive and make a positive impact in our world.”  

“We are incredibly grateful to our dedicated community supporters and leaders who sponsored and/or contributed to our very first Blue & Silver Fundraiser,” said Vice President of University Advancement Jessica Berger. “Together we are sending a powerful message to every student across our region that we believe in them and are here to support them every step of the way in achieving their dreams.” 

Media Contact

Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist

ebreier@csusm.edu | Office: 760-750-7314