Wine and Viticulture

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Bill and Cheryl Swanson Donate $1 Million to Cal Poly’s Center for Wine and Viticulture

Bill and Cheryl Swanson, longtime supporters of Cal Poly, have donated $1 million to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science’s (CAFES) JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture.

The gift will fund the Swanson Center of Effort Conference Hall in the E. & J. Gallo Winery & Family Building. The 2,728-square-foot hall will be used as a central gathering place, where academia and the community will come together to network, learn and celebrate. Lectures, meetings and events, all with a focus on industry and student enrichment, will be held in the conference hall.

“The dedication of Bill and Cheryl to Cal Poly and the community exemplifies their dedication to providing the support needed for future generations of students to succeed,” said Andrew Thulin, dean of CAFES. “Their donation does more than provide the funding necessary to build a long-desired conference hall on campus; they are ensuring that our vision of Cal Poly serving as a central hub for the entire wine industry in San Luis Obispo County and beyond to train the next generation of winemakers.”

The Swanson’s donation is the largest single donation to the project from the Edna Valley wine region, representing a strong partnership between the university and local wineries who often hire Cal Poly graduates as interns and full-time employees after graduation.

“When we founded Center of Effort, we wanted to create an estate winery that emphasizes sustainability and make wines that reflect our special area,” Bill Swanson said. “Our hope is that we can help future generations of students become outstanding winemakers through Learn by Doing.”

Philanthropy and Center of Effort

Alumnus Bill Swanson (Industrial Engineering, ’73) and his wife, Cheryl, have long been champions of Cal Poly, philanthropically supporting various projects across the campus. Bill Swanson, a native of California, graduated magna cum laude from Cal Poly with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and has an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Pepperdine University and an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Cal Poly. The couple recently served as co-chairs for Cal Poly’s The Power of Doing: The Campaign for Learn by Doing capital campaign. Bill Swanson, retired Raytheon Co. chairman and CEO, has served on the Cal Poly Foundation Board since 2006 and was elected chair in 2014.

The couple founded the Center of Effort winery in the Edna Valley in 2008, in the heart of San Luis Obispo wine country. The name Center of Effort references a sailing term that is the point on the sail where the forces come together and act as a whole. The concept is a guiding principal of Swanson’s winery and encompasses the overall purpose of Cal Poly’s new conference hall.


Visit Vines to Wines Fall 2020 to read more stories.

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