The cause of agriculture education at my alma mater, California State University, Chico, was just enhanced by $2 million.
Dan Guistina, the managing general partner of Giustina Resources, an Oregon-based timber company, presented his donation to university President Paul Zingg in an event that was carried live online.
Guistina’s ties to the university are linked through his longtime friend, the late Tom Bell. Bell was a rancher from southern Oregon and northern California whose family ranched in Butte County, where Chico State is located, dating back to 1875.
Tom Bell, who managed the Bell Ranch, including more than 16,000 acres in California and Oregon, passed away in 1987.
The Bell family’s association with the university in Chico goes back to when it was called Chico Normal School. Guistina’s friend, Tom, had an aunt who attended the school when it opened to students in 1889. Ninety students were enrolled that first year at Chico Normal School, which was formed by the California Legislature for the purpose of training and educating teachers.
Land for the college was first provided by another farmer, John Bidwell, who donated his eight-acre cherry orchard to secure the northern branch of the State Normal School.
During the ceremony, Guistina briefly recounted the story of meeting Bell while the two were in ranching in southern Oregon. The endowment is just one way in which Guistina honors the friendship he and Bell had. It also marks Guistina’s commitment to promoting education, which he also generously supports at the University of Oregon by donation.
His philanthropy at the University of Oregon endowed 40 presidential scholarships there, and in doing so “we increased the level of learning and the quality of instruction, and the quality of the university as a whole,” Guistina said.
Guistina’s donation to Chico State marks the largest-ever scholarship gift to California’s second-oldest CSU campus, and will fund up to 16 $5,000 scholarships a year for students in Chico State’s College of Agriculture. CSU Chico is one of four agriculture colleges in California. Agriculture enrollment at the university has doubled since 2006, according to university Spokesman Joe Willis.
Students who apply to be Bell Presidential Scholars must have strong academic backgrounds and a commitment to agriculture, and demonstrate a history of leadership and service.
“One of my great passions in life has been education,” said Guistina prior to making his donation.
Agriculture is well-represented at Chico State, which boasts an 800-acre university farm, including an organic dairy and programs for students in animal science, crop science, ag business and ag education.
Current Chico State student body president Taylor Herren of Kern County, Calif., is a senior studying animal science. Last December, Chico State agriculture education student Natalie Oelsner of Galt, Calif., was the collegiate discussion meet winner at the California Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting. Oelsner went on to compete at the national collegiate discussion meet level.
Agriculture not only plays an important role in the history of California State University, Chico, but through generous donations like Guistina’s and, with the caliber of students involved in agriculture programs at Chico State, agriculture should continue to have success there well into the future.
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