There’s more to university life than filling out admissions forms, showing up for classes, and studying for tests. Erik Anderson, an Inland Empire business leader and philanthropist, wants all students at the University of California, Riverside to take advantage of the world-class education they are being offered. And he’s pledging $5 million to help make that happen.
“UC Riverside serves a lot a first-generation and low-income students who might not have had college on their radar but are able to attend because of their grades or receiving scholarships,” said Anderson, who serves as a member of the UCR Foundation board of trustees. “Because they are navigating college for the first time, there are many aspects of the experience that they either don’t know about or that are intimidating or out of reach financially or emotionally.”
A large proportion of UCR’s 26,000 students are underrepresented minorities, more than half are first-generation college students, and 47% receive a Pell Grant — the largest federal grant program typically offered to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need.
As the university’s first student-focused fundraising initiative, Beyond Brilliant seeks to raise $50 million over the next five years to enhance the student experience at UCR, including expanding access and opportunity, empowering innovative learning and teaching opportunities, and enhancing health and wellness. The initiative will support students in all aspects of campus life, including financial aid, internships, study abroad opportunities, student facilities, and fostering a sense of belonging.
“The community we have tomorrow is defined by the investment we make in education today.”
— Brian Hawley, chair of the UCR Foundation board of trustees
Those efforts have begun close to home, with a $5 million gift from Anderson, through Anderson Community Partners. With this gift, Anderson created UCR’s first ever Trustee Student Support Challenge Fund, which invites other trustees to join him in raising an overall $10 million pool of funding that will provide a dollar-for-dollar match of all new gifts and commitments to the initiative. The match is designed to inspire alumni and other donors to give generously, knowing their gifts will go further to have the most impact on students.
“Erik’s generosity and challenge to the trustees are just phenomenal,” said Brian Hawley, chairman and chief technical officer at Luminex Software Inc. in Riverside and the chair of the UCR Foundation board of trustees. “We had 100% participation from trustees during the successful Living the Promise comprehensive campaign that concluded in 2020 and I have no doubt that we will see 100% participation in this.”
For three consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named UCR the top university in the nation for social mobility. Hawley said the initiative will support and expand these efforts, which are particularly timely in light of the economic struggles many families are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s clear that UCR knows how to help students succeed regardless of their socioeconomic background. The Beyond Brilliant initiative is going to further that success,” Hawley said. “It will help transform the lives of these students, their families, and the region. I’ve said for years that the community we have tomorrow is defined by the investment we make in education today. I don’t think there’s any better return on investment than in education.”
Anderson said he hopes the matching funds will incentivize alumni and others who care about the university to consider donating now.
“For every dollar that I have put up, I’ve asked the trustees to put up another. And so every donation from alumni or community members will be doubled, going further than ever before to make a difference in students’ lives,” Anderson said. “With this support from our trustees, alumni, and community, I’m looking forward to seeing all the small changes that will take place on campus. That could mean a student coming who wouldn’t be able to otherwise, a student being able to stay in school, and all students having a broader and richer experience.”