Cal Poly receives $20 million pledge for new research and technology center

Cal Poly.
Cal Poly.

Cal Poly has received a pledge of $20 million from Bill and Linda Frost for its planned Science & Agriculture Teaching and Research Complex.

The promised donation — which will be spread out over several years — is the same amount as the gift given to the university by Peter and Mary Oppenheimer in 2014 for Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences.

The Oppenheimers’ $20 million was the largest cash gift in the university’s history.

The center is envisioned to be at least 64,000 square feet and will feature research labs and technology space for Cal Poly’s colleges of Science and Mathematics; Liberal Arts; and Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. The facility is estimated to cost about $57 million, and the university hopes the Frosts’ pledge will spur others to contribute as well.

The center will provide space for undergraduate research and technology across the disciplines of the three colleges.

The Frosts’ promise adds to a pledge of $8 million made in 2014 by the James G. Boswell Foundation, and other donations, bringing Cal Poly’s total promised amount to $35 million.

“The Frosts will begin providing the donation once funding is secured and the university goes into the design phase on the facility,” Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said. “The $20 million will likely be donated over a period of several years as design and construction proceeds.”

Bill Frost is a 1972 Cal Poly graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. Linda Frost earned a degree in biology from San Jose State University.

Frost founded and grew the company Chemlogics, which sold chemicals and polymers used in the extraction of oil and gas. The company, founded in 1982 and formerly headquartered in Paso Robles, was purchased by the Belgian company Solvay for $1.3 billion in 2013.

“My research experience as a Cal Poly student gave me fundamental tools and confidence for success in my career,” Bill Frost said in a statement released by Cal Poly. “Linda and I are very pleased to be able to help provide these same opportunities for generations of future Cal Poly students.”

The Frosts have supported Cal Poly for about a decade, including funding scholarships for science and math students. This fall, they will have as many as 70 students receiving financial assistance under their support, providing more than $1 million in scholarship funds. For summer research, the Frosts provide $200,000 each year and the college double-matches from other sources.

The center is planned in the heart of campus along Poly Vue Drive between the Baker Center for Science and Mathematics and the English Building.

The university will continue raising funds to pay for the facility, with tentative plans to break ground in 2018 and open the complex two years later.

“This center will bring ‘Learn By Doing’ alive for thousands of Cal Poly students across many disciplines,” Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong said in a statement. “We are grateful to Bill and Linda for their generosity, vision and leadership on this project and their ardent support for undergraduate research.”

A new complex would be the university’s second large addition to the campus in recent years serving students in science and technology disciplines.

In 2013, Cal Poly opened the Warren J. Baker Center for Science and Mathematics. The $119 million, 189,000-square-foot building was funded by voter-approved state education construction bonds and $19 million in private donations to Cal Poly.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune