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Chico State

University Foundation Board of Governors Announces Gayle E. Hutchinson Presidential Award for Excellence

Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson speaks from a podium during a graduate student ceremony.
(Jason Halley / University Photographer)

President Gayle Hutchinson (center) addresses graduating students in the College of Agriculture (AG) that were honored during their Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 18, 2018 in Chico, Calif. (Jason Halley/University Photographer/CSU Chico)

President Gayle E. Hutchinson placed Chico State on a path to prominence—advancing the institution, elevating its reputation, and creating a strong foundation for its future.

To honor her lasting legacy, the University Foundation Board of Governors has announced the creation of the Gayle E. Hutchinson Presidential Award for Excellence that will recognize individuals who exemplify her passion for forward-thinking strategies and innovation in technology and academic research.

“Dr. Hutchinson is an impressive and forward-thinking University president,” said Chuck Nelsen (Business Administration, ’89), chair of the University Foundation Board. “She has done a tremendous job driving Chico into the new era, advancing change, and showing significant dedication to keep the college in a good relationship with the City and foster economic development for the North State.”

The $100,000 award—the largest of its kind in the California State University—will be presented biannually to a faculty or staff member to celebrate their vision, advance research, support travel and publication expenses, and further their success.

The vision of this award is to recruit and retain exemplary faculty, as well as recognize those who are bringing Chico State to prominence by going above and beyond in their contributions to the University and academia. By honoring individuals with extraordinary ideas, visionary research, and out-of-the-box thinking, it will continue to bring prestige to the University and elevate Chico State’s presence on national and international stages.

As the campus community and supporters continue to work on elevating the status of the University, it is Nelsen’s belief this award will also advance Chico State on the “path to prominence,” a vision Hutchinson has articulated for years.

“By providing a substantial award, it will incentivize all our educators to work harder in advancing the University profile, inspire them to think creatively and on the cutting edge, and challenge the status quo—all for the success of our students and the benefit of our communities and the University,” Nelsen said.

Hutchinson served as president of Chico State for seven years until her retirement June 30, 2023. An accomplished former professor and dean, she also held the position of provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at CSU, Channel Islands for three years from 2013-2016. She is Chico State’s 12th president and the first female president in the University’s 137-year history.

As president, Hutchinson worked with the campus community to create a new Strategic Plan to guide the University’s priorities and commitments; imagine a new physical Master Plan; inaugurate Transform Tomorrow | The Campaign for Chico State to raise an incredible $106.6 million; unite the University’s visual and narrative identities with a comprehensive rebranding; and celebrate new buildings for the Colleges of Humanities and Fine Arts, Natural Sciences, and Behavioral and Social sciences.

She also balanced budget stability and grew fiscal reserves; strengthened Tribal Relations; led the campus through multiple crises including the Camp Fire and COVID-19; invested in marketing to attract and retain the next generation of Chico State students; and restored town-gown relations and campus morale. 

Through these powerful contributions, and so many more, Hutchinson placed Chico State on a path to prominence, while emphasizing the need for forward-thinking strategies and innovation in technology and academic research.

One of Nelsen’s most impactful memories with Hutchinson is from the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as she explained to the Foundation the University’s response and action plan to keep students learning and safe.

“In that moment, she showed a lot of honest and deep leadership,” he said. “As the situation evolved, pivoting to deal with a public health emergency, we were in the middle of a crisis and she remained dedicated to fulfilling the University’s mission. She did the hard work to keep Chico State on the path forward.”

The concept for the President Gayle E. Hutchinson Award for Excellence had the University Foundation Board’s unanimous support, with an outpouring of offers to volunteer to work on it and eventually funding it at a higher level than the original target.

“President Hutchinson will be remembered as an innovative thinker of the 21st century, and as a leader who helped place Chico State on the path to prominence,” said Ahmad Boura, Vice President for University Advancement and CEO of the University Foundation. “Among her legacies, she inspired many donors and CEOs to invest in Chico State to continue providing high-quality education, creating pathways for students’ social mobility, and solving the unprecedented challenges of our time. She left an invaluable mark at Chico State, and the University Foundation looks forward to working with President Steve Perez as we continue taking the University to new heights.”

The University Foundation welcomes gifts that will allow the endowment for the Gayle E. Hutchinson Presidential Award for Excellence to grow. Interested donors can contact Boura at