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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

CGU uses $14 million grant focused on health studies

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

Claremont Graduate University announced last week it has received one of the largest gifts in its nearly 100-year history, a $14 million largesse from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

The funds will go toward the purchase of the Huntley Bookstore building at 175 E. Eighth St., which will be the new home of the Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies, a multi-disciplinary health research center launched by CGU about a year ago.

“The focus of the new center will be integrated health and well-being aimed at vulnerable populations, the people who need it most,” said CGU President Len Jessup. “The pandemic has highlighted that health disparities are real and significantly disadvantage the most vulnerable.”

“Yuhaaviatam” translates to “people of the pines,” referring to the original inhabitants of the area, ancestors of the Highland, California-based San Manuel tribe. The San Manuel reservation was established in 1891 and recognized as a sovereign nation with the right of self-government.

The Yuhaaviatam Center’s focus will extend to the Los Angeles basin, home to the largest population of Native Americans found in an urban area of the United States. 

“In our role as stewards of our ancestral lands, we support our neighboring communities, in addition to our tribe,” said San Manuel Tribal Chair Ken Ramirez in a press release. “For generations, low-income communities and underserved populations have needed quality healthcare. Our gift is an investment in future healthier communities and one we are happy to make.” 

The primary tenant in the newly renovated building will be the CGU researchers, scientists, and outside partners that make up its School of Community and Global Health (SCGH).  

“In addition to improving health and well-being for the most vulnerable, this initiative will help us to finally move our SCGH on campus from office space on Foothill Boulevard, will help us to attract the best and brightest to our programs in public health, and will significantly enhance our partnerships with health-related organizations throughout the region,” Mr. Jessup said.

“CGU is located on the threshold of the Inland Empire, a region with a high prevalence of chronic disease where many underserved residents lack sufficient health coverage or awareness of the benefits of wellness and preventative care,” read a CGU press release. 

“When residents need a doctor, they face challenges to access due to an overstressed healthcare system. Such underserved populations include Native American communities, which historically

have higher rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, mental health issues, lack of overall wellbeing, and other chronic conditions.”

CGU’s last gift of similar size came in 2003, a $20 million endowment from billionaire Japanese businessman Masatoshi Ito in support of the Drucker School of Management.

The university began discussing the gift with the Highland, California-based San Manuel Band of Mission Indians last year, but negotiations were put on hold due to the pandemic. 

Mr. Jessup said the partnership will make it possible to create “powerful new collaborations on preventive and proactive responses to the kinds of chronic illness affecting so many today.” 

Future research at the Yuhaaviatam Center will address “many of the ‘underlying conditions’ we’ve been hearing about during the pandemic. It’s our hope to eventually produce the kinds of research at this center that will help prepare everyone, especially our most vulnerable populations, for the challenges of another global crisis.”

The new center will centralize under one roof the scholars and researchers currently spread among CGU’s seven schools and divisions. 

The 23,000 square-foot Huntley building was opened in 1969 as the central bookstore for the seven Claremont Colleges. The bookstore itself uses 14,283 square feet, including sales area, storage and office space. Approximately 8,000 square feet is dedicated to sales floor use. The contemporary post and beam structure was designed by Jones and Emmons 

Architects. 

Once renovations begin, the bookstore operations will move to another as of yet underdetermined location, Mr. Jessup said. 

San Manuel’s partnership with CGU began in 2006 with the establishment of the university’s Tribal Administration Program, which provides training in tribal governance and administration management. The Huntley building will serve as that program’s home as well.

“Real, substantial breakthroughs happen when people from many disciplines come together and collaborate,” Mr. Jessup said in the press release. “That’s the hallmark of our transdisciplinary philosophy, and the purchase of the Huntley makes it possible to create such a space for that kind of engagement on our campus.”

For more about the Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies, visit www.info.cgu.edu/ychs/

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