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CGU receives ‘transformational’ $42 million gift

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

Claremont Graduate University has received the largest gift in its history—$42 million—which will fund a new school of arts and humanities on the nearly 100-year-old campus.

The gift comes from a foundation established by the late Patrick F. Cadigan, who earned his master’s and PhD at CGU and was a student of famed professor Peter Drucker.

“It’s transformational for us,” said CGU President Len Jessup. “All the gifts are valuable, but this one it’s needless to say would be the largest gift in the university’s history.”

Cadigan, who became a wildly successful real estate developer in Orange County, with a portfolio approaching $1 billion, died in April 2020 at 85.

Requests for proposals for the endeavor, dubbed “the Da Vinci project,” are being drawn now, and could be released as soon as the end of the month, Jessup said.

The new building will sit on a currently empty two-acre lot on Dartmouth Ave., between 12th St. and Drucker Way, north of the Drucker Institute. Jessup says he hopes to be able to choose architect and builder by late summer, then spend a year in design and approval, and another year in construction, with a hoped-for ribbon cutting in September 2024.

The building, which will bear Cadigan’s name, will likely be two or three stories and about 40,000 square-feet.

“It’ll end up being either ‘Cadigan hall’ or the ‘Cadigan innovations center,’ or something like that,” Jessup said. “We’ll work that out with the family.”

The building’s design is of course to be determined, but it will be distinctive while at the same time working in context with the surrounding structures, Jessup said.

“We thought about what would fit well and not really over-burden the spot. It needs to kind of fit well with everything around it.”

One thing is for certain: it will not be a wild, ultra-modern Frank Gehry-style design, nor will it hew to the lines of the many early- to mid-20th century homes on its campus.

“I do think that we have an opportunity to make a statement with it, to be a really beautiful building that’s inviting,” Jessup said. “A big goal for me to achieve would be that whenever any VIP or prospective student for any of the Claremont Colleges visits … I would love it if this building was on the tour, that it was one of the key sights around the seven campuses that people wanted their visitors to see.”

The school’s Development Officer Kristen Andersen-Daley had reached out to Cadigan prior to Jessup’s arrival in 2018. Both she and Jessup were aware of Cadigan’s strong philanthropic bent: he’d given $15 million in 2012 to his undergraduate alma mater, Boston College, which named Cadigan Alumni Center in his honor, as well as $12 million to Boston College High School, the Jesuit high school from whence he graduated.

Jessup and Andersen-Daley first met with Cadigan in 2019. Though clearly in poor health, the philanthropist nonetheless peppered them with a series of probing questions about the proposed new building site and the school’s vision for it. After just 30-minutes, Cadigan cut the session short, citing ill health. Before leaving, Cadigan told them he’d have his driver take him to the Claremont site when he was feeling better, so he could get a look at the proposed building site—and his alma mater—for himself. But the truncated meeting led the CGU team to think it hadn’t go well.

Then in March 2020, the pandemic hit, and communication between Cadigan and CGU became spotty. After Cadigan died a month later, it looked as if the project was going to have to find a new funding source.

“And we just thought y’know, that’s just how it goes sometimes, and I guess we were lucky to have met him and we got to engage him,” Jessup said. “At least he could hear what was going on with the school.”

Then last spring, Cadigan’s attorney called. It turned out Jessup and Andersen-Daley had misjudged the tenor of the meeting: Cadigan’s will included money earmarked expressly for the project they had discussed ever so briefly.

The lawyer “let us know that we had been left in the will, and it was around the building, and that Patrick had made it very clear that he wanted that building to happen and he wanted his name on it,” Jessup said.

The attorney toured the site in October 2021 and asked what was needed to complete Cadigan’s wishes. The price tag was $42 million, and soon thereafter the agreement was signed and the gift  was CGU’s, payable in $7 million increments over the next six years.

Though CGU will have to do some additional fundraising or arrange alternate financing at about the midpoint of the project in order to cover ongoing construction costs, the massive $42 million gift will cover the entirety of proposal, design, permitting, construction and completion costs, Jessup said.

It would appear Jessup has been some sort of donation whisperer for CGU over his near four-year tenure as president, since the Cadigan largesse follows on the heels of a December 2020 $14 million gift from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

Confronted with this theory, Jessup demurred with a laugh, and gave credit to the school’s team of fundraising specialists, especially Andersen-Daley.

“It’s very exciting,” he said. “This doesn’t happen often, so this is very exciting.”

Meanwhile, the design work for the new Yuhaaviatam Center for Health Studies, funded by the San Manuel gift, has been completed by Ontario-based Brian R. Bloom Architect, and awaits city approval, expected at the end of the month, right about the time RFPs for the new, $42 million Cadigan building are expected to be released.

“What it will do for us—the campus, for the school of arts and humanities, and for the other uses in the building—it’s just going to be tremendous for us,” Jessup said. “A real boost. It’s really going to help.”

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