Mike Brown and his wife, Nancy, have literally helped build a new university with their generosity.
Led by Board of Trustees member Paul Moseley, 22 Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers donate a combined $165,000 to the Ann & Steve Morgan Auditorium.
Paul Moseley has made it his responsibility to give back generously to the University of La Verne since graduating in 1988. Though residing in Montana, he has played an active role as a member of the Board of Trustees and his leadership is helping shape the direction of the university. In the Sports Science & Athletics Pavilion, the Jeanne and Paul Moseley Strength & Fitness Center was named in recognition of their generosity.
So, it was especially satisfying for Moseley to enlist the help of 20 Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity brothers and raise $165,000 to donate to the Ann & Steve Morgan Auditorium renovation, a gift presented to the university at Homecoming Dinner in early November.
Moseley contacted his fraternity brothers through their Yahoo group and the response was staggering. Most of the SAE alumni who participated in the challenge attended La Verne around the time of President Morgan’s inauguration.
“It was nice to be able to say thank you for all their time,” Moseley said.
Joining Moseley in the gift were Chris Bezich ’90, Cory Cruz ’95, Jon Davenport ’90, Lincoln Dial ’91, Mike DiRienzo ’86, Joe Fengler ’89, Don Flora ’90, Roger Garcia ’03, Edwin Gibson ’92, Neal Houska ’04, Robert Knowles ’89, Brian Lewis, Rodger Mansfield ’84, Steve Marquez ’87, Jonathan Marty ’06, Bill Powell ’85, Michael Salois ’90, Norm Scheel ’88, Steve Stepanian ’88, Rod Wright ’88 and John Yeung ’93.
The university, in the midst of a $4.5 million renovation of the auditorium in Founders Hall built in 1926, has received about $1.4 million in such private donations. A large chunk of that was donated by a group of Board of Trustees members with the stipulation that the renovated auditorium be named for Morgan, the retiring university president, and his wife, the first couple of the university for 25 years.
At the Homecoming dinner, which honored the Morgans as the Alumni of the Year Award recipients, the president was caught off guard by the fraternity’s gift to the university.
“Ann and I were surprised and honored when we learned of the SAE gift to the auditorium renovation,” Morgan said. “What a generous commitment!”
Moseley described his generosity as his personal obligation to give back to the university.
“La Verne was the right place at the right time for me and returning the favor is a way of fulfilling that obligation,” Moseley said. “When I think about something someone has done for me to help me become a better person, I want to return that favor.
“You get more leverage with matching funds and when you’re asking any group you tend to have a greater involvement and ownership in that gift. It causes that gift to have a more significant impact on the university.”
It was no secret that the auditorium was in grave need of refurbishment. Affectionately referring to it and the basement directly below as “descending into the dungeon,” Moseley knew that it wasn’t an environment that lent itself to higher learning.
“The university, like any business or institution, has to compete for talent,” Moseley said. “If you have a tired infrastructure and you are trying to get higher caliber students, faculty and speakers on campus to engage the whole student body, there are many different levels of capital that are required for that.”
The SAE gift was more than a kind gesture to the retiring president. It was a reflection of the relationship that President Morgan and the fraternity had cultivated over the years.
Morgan is an Honorary Member of SAE and was particularly close to the SAE members in the early years of his presidency.
“This gift from the SAE alumni is particularly meaningful because of my relationship with them when they were students and because of my friendship with (former La Verne speech and debate coach) Bob Rivera and his chapter,” Morgan said. “Paul and his classmates were a talented and gentlemanly group of students who have been successful in their professional careers. They were leaders as students and have grown to be leaders in their professions and in their communities. I take special pride in their achievements and their commitment to La Verne. I knew they would be successful.”
One such leader is Knowles, who answered the call to contribute along with his fraternity brothers. Married to a La Verne alumna, this gift has a special place in their hearts.
“Lynda and I have been donating small amounts for years,” Knowles said. “The challenge from Paul started us thinking maybe we should direct our donation toward Morgan Auditorium. After all, Steve Morgan became president of the university during our freshman year and became an honorary member of SAE while I was an active member.”
Knowles’ wife, Lynda (Rodriguez) ’89, has particularly fond memories of the auditorium. She and other bridesmaids waited in the auditorium with anticipation before they walked down the aisle for the wedding of her sister, Lisa, in Fasnacht Court.
“Both Lynda and I had wonderful experiences at a small, private university,” Robert Knowles said. “It is important for us to do what we can to have that opportunity available for other students, especially since our children could be among those students some day!”
Along with Knowleses and Moseley, there were two other SAE brothers in attendance for the special presentation at Homecoming Dinner.
Wright ’88, who flew in from Philadelphia for this special announcement, toured the auditorium in the afternoon prior to the event and was impressed with the progress.
“(The auditorium) was falling apart when I was a student,” said Wright, whose excitement to be part of the historic renovation was evident.
Scheel said his first memory of the auditorium was a speech by President Morgan in the fall of his inaugural year. As a part of his speech class, he was assigned to critique the President’s every word and pause.
“We even had to tally the ‘ums’ and ‘ahs,’” Scheel said. However, when the speech was over, he was amazed to find there were no tally marks against the president’s speaking prowess.
While there were plenty of stories for old friends to bat around, Moseley took note of the potential impact of the capital project to which he and his chums had donated, one “that will continue the momentum” of the university, he said. “It’s a project that raises the experience of the university – everyone benefits from that.”
Such leadership did not begin only after graduation day. While a student at the university, Moseley made an undeniable impression on the university president, and Morgan says he’s not a bit surprised at Moseley’s success and character and dedication to the future of La Verne.
“Paul was a tough soccer player during a time when we had very good teams,” Morgan said. “Like all that he does, he was dedicated to doing it well. He was fiercely competitive.
“When Paul was a student, I visited his father, Furman Moseley, in Seattle and asked Furman if he would join La Verne’s Board of Trustees. Furman replied that he was unable to join but he hoped that someday Paul would become a Trustee. We are fortunate Furman’s wish has come true. Paul is an outstanding leader on our Board and I know his father is very proud of Paul’s involvement with La Verne.”