PCC Foundation Expands Fundraising and College’s Scope

Executive Director Bobbi Abram and Jack Scott
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Pasadena City College Foundation Executive Director Bobbi Abram and Jack Scott, former PCC president, have successfully led the ambitious “Impact Campaign,” raising $16 million for four initiatives: scholarships, career and technical education, arts and athletics. Scott has chaired the five-year campaign whose initial goal was $10 million.

With the Pasadena City College Foundation on the cusp of completing an ambitious, multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign, the San Gabriel Valley’s largest community college is assured of continuing to impact lives and serve as graduates’ bridge to an evolving economy for many generations to come, foundation members said recently.
With an initial goal of $10 million when it kicked off in late 2014, PCC’s first-of-its-kind “Impact Campaign” has now raised about $16 million, which will be dedicated to four major initiatives to improve outcomes for its 29,000 students: scholarships, career and technical education, arts and athletics.
The campaign’s success will improve programs not supported by the college’s operational budget, like the resurfacing of the athletic field, engaging internship opportunities for continuing students or strengthening chances at employment for those graduating. In fact, the foundation this past year amended its articles of incorporation to include — in addition to focusing on tuition and books — helping serve the holistic needs of students when it comes to housing, transportation, food or child care. That will be in addition to the nearly $1 million the foundation awards annually in scholarships.
“It’s very rare that a student comes to PCC and doesn’t have some option of getting their tuition for free, and now we have officially identified ways to focus on their holistic needs,” said PCC Foundation Executive Director Bobbi Abram, noting that a 2015 gala coincided with the college’s 90th anniversary, helping to give the campaign a big jump start. Among themselves, PCC board members donated $1 million, a testament to their faith in the school’s mission. “It really helped create that momentum, and the foundation board really built on that, we had so many supporters in the community and we rallied the troops to try to meet some of these very real student needs,” Abram said.
The PCC Foundation, apart from working tirelessly over five years, got a little help from a secret weapon: formidable campaign chair Jack Scott, a longtime Pasadena resident and former PCC president (1987-1995), state legislator and chancellor of the California Community Colleges System.
Abram noted that during the capital campaign, PCC went through a turbulent leadership period, going through three presidents.
“Dr. Scott was the consistency in leadership during this whole campaign,” said Abram. “[During a presentation] I called him Jack Scott the ‘the Jack Pot’ because that is absolutely the truth. No one worked harder, no one was more successful. Every single person he asked said yes — every single person! That’s 100%. That’s a Jack Pot.”
Sitting down to discuss the campaign and PCC goals, Abram and Scott joined with new PCC Superintendent/President Erika Endrijonas to reflect on the successful fundraising and excitement for what lies ahead for PCC, ranked by the Aspen Institute as one of the top 10 community colleges in the nation.
Scott, who started out as a professor of religion and history after getting a master of divinity degree from Yale University and later a Ph.D. in history (“That means he came to his senses!” Endrijonas said jokingly), has always been a passionate supporter of community colleges. After he left the Senate and was set to retire in 2008, he was asked to become the voice of community colleges across the state. He couldn’t say no, he recalled.
“I got turned on by community colleges and their mission: The fact that [the University of California] takes 12.5% of students, and [the California State University] takes 33.3% of students, but community colleges take 100% of students. Where would we be if we didn’t have community colleges in California? Where would students go?” he said. “Education empowers people. Studies show that every step in the education ladder leads to an increased income.”
Scott recalled a young woman he met at a recent event at PCC, which was honoring some of its graduating students. The young woman was a returning student who previously had dropped out due to an unexpected pregnancy and then returned, raising her child along the way. She was now transferring to a Cal State school.
“Here was someone with such fortitude, despite her circumstances — low income, first one in her family to attend college, raising a child at the same time — and to see her going on and graduating with honors … well, I thought, this is money well spent,” Scott said. “Giving a boost to someone who genuinely deserves it — I can’t think of a better mission. I get energized by this cause, and it’s as good a cause as I can think of.”
That mission proved easy to sell to PCC’s many passionate supporters. But even that wasn’t without a bag of tricks. Connecting donors with students and their stories proved fruitful, as was creating the four initiatives that could speak to very different donor interests — like helping students follow their dreams in theater or dance, or careers in nursing or law enforcement and firefighting.
“We’ve found that when the donor has some direct connection with the student, that person is impacted and encouraged and inspired to continue giving in a way that doesn’t always happen,” Abram added.
Another factor in success, Endrijonas noted, is PCC’s ability to explain what the college has versus what it needs.
“We’re not just going with our hat out — we explain what we have and what that will get us, compared to what we need to better serve our students, if we can just get to the next level,” she said. “It’s compelling for donors, because they see we show good stewardship, a good sense of how to serve our students and how to be financially responsible.”
Yet another factor in selling success: PCC’s immaculate reputation. Founded in 1924, the institution has received many accolades over the years, and continues to be one of the top community colleges in California, conferring more associate degrees for transfer than any other community college. PCC also was one of the first in the state when it began, in 2018, the PCC Promise Program, offering the first year for free to qualifying full-time students.
“PCC enjoys an excellent reputation, has an impressive cadre of alums and is respected and well known in the region — that helped a lot,” said foundation President Bill Hawkins, adding that having Scott on board was a major contributing factor to the campaign’s success. “His reputation and professional career in education and the Legislature brought tremendous gravitas to our purpose and projects of the campaign. In addition, our foundation directors have strong ties to our community and have strong community relations.”
Those ties include fostering partnerships with local businesses and industry, all of which rely on PCC to foster graduates and provide a stream of qualified and committed employees. PCC has remained steadfast in bolstering its career and technical education programs, for groups ranging from health-care professionals to auto mechanics and cosmetologists, among its 70 career-oriented programs meant to close the skills gap in the 21st century.
Off the tails of the capital campaign and going forward, now with the financial reassurance of $16 million and an endowment worth $30 million, PCC will continue its mission of access, student success, student wellness and support, along with the longstanding quality of its programs, said Scott, emphasizing that “We continue to work on student success as much as we work on student access. We want them to get in, but we also have to keep them in.”
Those initiatives, going forward, include a “business council” within the foundation that will create internship opportunities with area businesses to better ascertain the skills they need, while also creating transitions for PCC students. Outreach to high school students with dual enrollment programs is another initiative, which has proved to help keep kids on the college track, the foundation members said.
Another lofty goal: further bolster the robust adult program by bringing a family resource center to PCC, a child-friendly space that can offer tutoring, parental guidance resources, even baby clothes and diapers. Endrijonas, who oversaw a similar one in her previous job, noted that when students with children utilized the services, they had a completion rate at least 10% higher than the general population of the college.
As for Scott’s plans going forward, the education advocate has no intention of slowing down. He’s going to kick off the “Jack Scott Fundraising Institute,” a workshop aimed at teaching other colleges and schools how to successfully fundraise. (Tip No. 1, he noted, is “You gotta ask!”)
But even as Scott moves on to his next adventure after completing the capital campaign, he looks forward to all of PCC’s great initiatives. “I’ll always care deeply about Pasadena City College,” he said.

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