The foundation of the late entertainment billionaire Jerry Perenchio is donating $5.5 million to Fresno State to support student success.
“By helping to remove barriers to achieving a college degree, the Perenchio Foundation is profoundly transforming the lives of current and future students, our next generation of leaders, thereby making a lasting gift to the hometown that gave Mr. Perenchio his start in life.” — Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro
Born to an Italian family of winemakers in Fresno on Dec. 20, 1920, Perenchio was enrolled by his parents in a Los Angeles prep school at 15. He graduated from UCLA before becoming a U.S. Air Force jet pilot and then one of the most powerful deal-makers in Hollywood.
According to his 2017 Los Angeles Times obituary, Perenchio “adored his Italian-immigrant grandfather, John Batiste Perenchio, who was a fresh-fruit broker who founded the Fresno Grape Exchange and a winery in nearby Reedley. There he was schooled in the fine art of business.”
And he never forgot his roots, giving generously (but quietly) to civic causes — the successful effort to save and enhance the Fresno Chaffee Zoo, for example — and Fresno State.
Gift Funds Grants and Scholarships
With the foundation’s gift to Fresno State, students facing financial hardship will be able to apply for more grants and scholarships.
“By helping to remove barriers to achieving a college degree, the Perenchio Foundation is profoundly transforming the lives of current and future students, our next generation of leaders, thereby making a lasting gift to the hometown that gave Mr. Perenchio his start in life,” said Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro in a news release.
“As student enrollment grows, we are extremely grateful for this investment in our university.”
The foundation donated $5 million to create the Perenchio Family Endowed Scholarship. The fund will support Fresno State students from all backgrounds and majors, including “Dreamers.” In building this endowment, the foundation’s goal is to make scholarships available for students in perpetuity.
Five hundred thousand dollars of the gift will go to the university’s Good Samaritan Fund to help students in need during the 2020-21 academic year.
First Scholarships Will Be Awarded in 2021-22
The first Perenchio scholarships will be awarded in the 2021-22 academic year to freshmen and sophomores to encourage retention, and juniors and seniors to increase degree completion.
These scholarships will be open to all students who need a financial boost, with preference given to full-time students.
In 2011, Perenchio was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts at Fresno State’s centennial commencement recognizing his contributions in entertainment and communications, and his commitment to education and philanthropy.
After accepting the degree, Perenchio addressed the graduates and said that as a child in Fresno, he could never have imagined the career he would have. He encouraged the graduates to dream big and said success could be theirs as it was his with “lots of hard work, perseverance, mentoring, faith, ambition, and a good dose of luck.”
The Quiet Giver
It’s estimated that Perenchio bankrolled political candidates and the Republican Party to the tune of $30 million while he was alive.
But, as noted by reporter Meg James in Perenchio’s Times obituary:
“Perenchio also donated tens of millions of dollars to charities, foundations, and building projects, including Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. His contributions to charitable organizations were nearly impossible to tabulate because most were given under the veil of ‘anonymous.’ ”