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Chico State

Challenge Grant Program Embraced as Opportunity to Further Gifts’ Impact

Trinity Hall's bell tower is visible through a cluster of spring blossoms.
Jason Halley / University Photographer

Joanne Adams was somewhat of a legend, both on campus and in the eyes of her children.

At two years old, she and her family drove out to California in a Chevy from Oklahoma after the Dust Bowl and eventually settled in Oroville. After growing up, marrying, and raising a family, she decided to pursue a college degree when her children were teens. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in anthropology at Chico State, and then spent the next 30 years as an anthropology instructor and department secretary to a half-dozen programs.

Known for challenging her students to improve their analysis and writing skills, she was also a champion of fair treatment for University staff and an advocate of social justice in state and local politics.

“To her last day, she was organizing, encouraging, and supporting colleagues who shared her principles,” said her son, Clifford Cannon.

Upon her death in 2009, Cannon and his siblings joined with many of Adams’ friends and colleagues to create a scholarship in her name. For years, they have donated to ensure it could be awarded to one student a year. When an opportunity recently arose to establish an endowment to honor Joanne’s legacy and support students in perpetuity, they jumped at the chance.

“I wasn’t aware how relatively easy it would be to do,” he said. “I thought it would take a lot more money and a lot more time.”

Cannon and his siblings were among the first to participate in the Endowment Challenge Grant Program, a limited opportunity for donors to have any new endowment gift enhanced with a 20 percent match by the University Foundation Board of Governors. All new endowment cash gifts of $25,000 or more are eligible, and can be designated for a specific department, college, or program.

This opportunity will last until June 30, 2021, or when the Foundation’s initial pool of $1 million has been designated. After raising $1.5 million in its first two months, it has the potential to raise more than $6 million with the matching funds.

Once the endowment is fully funded, the University Foundation match is added to the donor’s endowment. After an appropriate investment period, awards will be made for its designated purposes. To date, eight new endowments have been established, with several others in process.

“Gifts made through this program are not only an opportunity to support extraordinary students, faculty, and programs, but they will help maintain momentum toward the goals of Transform Tomorrow | The Campaign for Chico State,” said Ahmad Boura, vice president for University Advancement and CEO of the University Foundation. “We appreciate the generosity and vision of donors who have stepped forward so far, sharing in our mission to transform lives for generations to come.”

Chico residents Bob and Becky Stofa are among them. Season-ticket-holders for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams, they haven’t missed a game in years, with perhaps the exception of one January match when they were in Hawaii. It’s not just the talent of Chico State’s student-athletes, but also the camaraderie that has made them dedicated fans.

“Every year they seem to have someone outstanding on the team, and the players all get along so well,” said Bob Stofa, a retired faculty member from the Mathematics and Statistics Department. “You can tell they are a team, not a one-person star.”

A basketball player crouches down with her teammates around her.
Wildcats basketball players’ victories and energy on the court and in the classroom are a leading reason the Stofas wanted to create a scholarship to support them.

They love getting to know the student-athletes, rooting them on, and the friendship with others in the stands. The Stofas often attend Commencement and cheer on the players for accomplishments in the classroom as well as on the court.

“Sometimes we run into players on the team and they come and give us a hug,” he said. “They are more than just a basketball team. They are part of our lives.”

As supporters of the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry, Chico Cares, and other philanthropic causes on campus, the Stofas have long admired the plaques in the hallway of Acker Gymnasium that showcase various scholarships and highlight recipients. They began to consider if they could somehow play a part.

When the Endowment Challenge Grant Program was initiated, the timing was right for them financially, and they decided to start two scholarships—one for each of the men’s and women’s basketball teams. They hope they will not only help recruit great players but ensure the student-athletes can keep their focus on their studies and basketball with fewer distractions related to paying for college.

Cannon shared a similar sentiment. Like their mother, he and his sister were first-generation students as they all attended college around the same time. A working-class family, they relied on scholarships, grants, and loans, and he knows today’s students share similar challenges, exacerbated by the rising cost of college.

He was surprised and delighted that the investment to create an endowment was relatively minimal. With a gift of $25,000, he and his siblings, Renee Margolin and Clyde D. Colbert II, can have the confidence their mother will always be remembered at Chico State and students who shared her passion for anthropology will have their financial paths eased a little.

Cannon thinks his mother would be very pleased to know her impact will live on in this way. Each year, he and his family get letters from the scholarship recipients, and he said he’s always awed by how incredible they are and the gratitude they express.

“This endowment also pays it forward,” he said. “I was helped, and now I’m helping. These students have been helped and they will have the chance to help when they are established. And that’s how we will grow.”

For more information on the Endowment Challenge Grant Program, contact Evelyn Buchanan at