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Fresno State Alum Couple Donates $100K to Business School



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Fresno State News

Fresno State alumni Jim and Chelisa Vagim and their daughters, Madeline and Georgia, believe university faculty play an essential role in student success and community development, which is why they have donated $100,000 to the Craig School of Business to support faculty research.

“Faculty are forming our future generations, so it’s important for them to get the funding they need,” Chelisa Vagim said. “I know some kids struggle in college, but having teachers who can make an impact on their lives is one of the most important things we can do.”

Dr. Julie Olson-Buchanan, dean of the Craig School, said the Vagims’ investment in faculty research will sustain long-term improvements in student success and community economic development.

“This generous donation from Jim and Chelisa Vagim will be used to attract and retain high-quality scholars who are committed to teaching and creating new knowledge through their research,” Olson-Buchanan said. “Putting research faculty in the classroom keeps our curriculum up to date and trains students in research methods and cutting-edge developments. Craig School faculty often focus on applied business research that provides locally relevant knowledge for the Central California business community.”

Olson-Buchanan said 60% of the Vagims’ donation will be placed in an endowment to ensure the Craig School can continue to grow its core faculty well into the future.

Fresno State Roots

The Vagims said giving back to Fresno State is important to them because of their close ties to the university, Fresno, and the Central Valley. Although they now live in Pasadena, the Vagims are originally from Porterville, where Jim and Chelisa’s families ran rival car dealerships on opposite corners.

After Jim and Chelisa attended Fresno State, they married and moved to the Los Angeles area, where Jim continued the family tradition of car sales, building a career in auto finance. In addition to their recent donation, the Vagims have long hosted the Send Off BBQ for incoming Fresno State students from Southern California.

The Vagims believe their gift to the Craig School will provide greater economic opportunities for Fresno State students who will in turn serve the Central Valley.

“We wanted to put our money where it would have the most meaningful impact,” Jim Vagim said. “The engagement the Craig School has with the business community is absolutely essential for students. They take first-generation students and get them involved with the broader business community and they can see that they can do big things. Those students are going to be energized and they’re going to go on to do even better things.”