The Cambrian

Hearst Castle nonprofit gets makeover: Will shift focus to underserved kids

These days, there’s new energy in Hearst Castle’s 36-year-old nonprofit, which is being re-branded as The Foundation at Hearst Castle.

It had been known as Friends of Hearst Castle.

The organization — which began in the early 1980s as a simple committee of citizens and businesspeople worried about the condition of the access road to the hilltop Castle estate — now has a new executive director, new logo and a newly expanded mission that includes introducing “the magic and majesty of the Castle” and the nearby coastline to underserved middle-school students, according to board President Jeanette Trompeter.

The new initiative, according to a Foundation news release, makes tangibly real to those students “the inspiring accomplishments of one of the greatest innovators in California’s history,” media magnate William Randolph Hearst, “and the female architect (Julia Morgan) who made his dreams come true.”

After the students’ in-depth Castle tour, they are taken to the coastline at San Simeon Bay, where they’ll be introduced to marine science, up close and personal. In doing all that, the new program puts the crucial concepts of STEAM education — science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics — into tangible form that’s easily relatable.

Shows kids how STEAM is applied

This program “has never been done before” at the castle, Michael Young, the Foundation’s new executive director, said in a phone interview. “Severely underserved junior high kids are coming in to the Castle, and we’re showing them live what STEAM is all about,” he said. “The Castle, the bay and ocean, all in one full day.”

Teaching “these subjects in this way is really important. It shows kids how STEAM is applied” in real life, he said. “And the program will highlight and feature Julia Morgan… the first of her kind. Strong, extremely talented, a never-take-no kind of woman … one of the most prolific architects” of her time and since.

Young (the former NFL-wide-receiver for the LA Rams, Denver Broncos and other teams, who has had a Cambria home since 1997) said Morgan “should be remembered and studied now so that her incomparable legacy can continue to serve as an inspiration and role model for young women.”

In the program’s tour, the visiting students “see what and who built the Castle,” he said, and how what happened there continues to impact their lives today. For instance, Young said, in its heyday “Hearst Castle was the epicenter of communication, the worldwide web of the world, technology at its highest level at the time.”

The new name lends extra gravitas to the group’s missions, according to Trompeter, Young and even Hearst family heir Stephen Hearst. Hearst is a vice-president of the Hearst Corp. and great grandson of William Randolph Hearst.

While Stephen Hearst said April 22 that he hadn’t weighed in about the re-branding of the association before it happened, he understands the board’s motives in doing so.

“There are lots of groups that include the word ‘friends’ in their title,” he said. “They may not all be 501C3s (nonprofit organizations and charities). The foundation name indicates tax deductibility,” which can be a vital factor if a nonprofit is seeking large grants and donations from major corporations, governmental entities or significant funding foundations.

“Hearst Castle is a national and international brand,” Young, who has been an international fundraiser for decades, said. “Even so, when board members tried to get large financial support, they had literally three minutes to get their point across.

“The ‘Friends of Hearst Castle’ name may have sounded too local, too colloquial. A foundation? That sounds serious.”

The Foundation’s purposes

The Foundation will continue supporting the preservation and conservation of the art collection, historic gardens and structures of the world-class historic-house museum.

The board also wants to fund an expanded full-time conservation staff, and add lots more members to the Foundation roster. Melding all that with the expanded access for underserved youth is an easy leap, Trompeter said.

“There’s no place like Hearst Castle... located adjacent to one of the most pristine and awe-inspiring marine sanctuaries in our country,” she said. “These children who rarely travel will be able to experience the magnificent art and the spectacular natural beauty along San Simeon’s coastline.”

Dan Falat, superintendent of the State Parks district that includes the Castle, said the new program is “opening these kids’ eyes to another world they never knew existed.”

For instance, he said, the program’s first tour included 50 youngsters from Ivanhoe. “Only 15 had ever been to the beach,” he said.

The students did their Castle tour, went to San Simeon Bay “and had rangers and interpreters tell them about marine biology, what the ocean is made up of. There was even a treasure hunt for different creatures.” Trompeter added, “We want to spark the imaginations of these children and broaden their view of the world beyond their current environments and social media.”

The Foundation plans to cover the costs associated with bringing the students to the day-long interactive experience. Hearst enthusiastically endorses the concept of bringing more young people to the Castle.

“It’s great,” he said. “To younger folks, W.R. (Hearst) has become less relevant, except to those who actually understand what he accomplished. Even they learned about him and the Castle in sixth or seventh grade history books that focused on yellow journalism.”

Hearst said that his great-grandfather was the first in the U.S. to put into newspapers things that many young people love today, such as comics, games, color, halftones, graphics and even crossword puzzles.

Popular event to continue

The Foundation will continue a popular Friends of Hearst Castle event, Twilight on the Terrace.

The event on the hilltop and overlooking the Neptune Pool happens from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 1. It includes the ride up the hill and down again, fine wine, craft beer, epicurean delights from more than 30 Central Coast vendors, live music and dancing and a silent auction.

Tickets at are $195 for Foundation members and $265 for nonmembers. After May 1, ticket prices increase.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune