Peter and Mary Beth Oppenheimer are donating the largest cash gift in Cal Poly's history. | Courtesy Photo/Peter and Mary Beth Oppenheimer

Kyle McCarty

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Cal Poly announced today that it is receiving a 20 million dollar donation for the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences (CAFES), the largest cash gift in Cal Poly’s history.

The gift is being made by Peter and Mary Beth Oppenheimer. Peter Oppenheimer graduated from Cal Poly in 1985 with a degree in agricultural business management and is the former Chief Financial Officer of Apple Inc. Mary Beth Oppenheimer graduated in 1986 with a degree in home economics, concentrated in interior design.

A university press release detailed the projects the donation will fund:

Agricultural Events Center: A 70,000 square foot arena that will seat more than 2500 people. It will host livestock events, industry activity and conferences. Classrooms and support for the college’s educational programs will be included as well. It will be built where the beef unit is currently located on Via Carta.

Equestrian Pavilion: The new equestrian pavilion will have approximately 120,000 feet of arenas and will host current and expanded equestrian events.

Farm Store: The farm store will sell the various food products produced on Cal Poly’s campus.

Modernization of facilities: Buildings and equipment CAFES is already using will be improved and modernized.

Part of the donation will also be used for the Cal Poly Scholars scholarship program, as well as Cal Poly’s food pantry and meal vouchers program.

Peter Oppenheimer told Mustang News that his and Mary Beth’s donation was about improving on the positive experience they had at Cal Poly 30 years ago.

“I think what’s really important to Mary Beth and me is that we know that the experience that we had 30 years ago was in part due to what people who came before us did for the university, and we very much wanted to give back, so that future students could have an even better experience,” Oppenheimer said.

Oppenheimer said that through conversations with CAFES Dean Andrew Thulin, they arrived at a plan for the donation based on the university’s needs and the Oppenheimer’s interests.

“We wanted to make a gift that would help transform the College of Agriculture,” Oppenheimer said.

Oppenheimer said he and and his wife love horses, so financing a new equestrian facility was a natural fit.

Oppenheimer, who was among the tech industry’s highest paid executives while at Apple, attributed much of his success to Cal Poly.

“Our Learn By Doing philosophy, and the very practical education that our students get, both on campus, and the strong emphasis on internships, I think is really critical,” Oppenheimer said.

Oppenheimer said he continued to see this in action during his time at Apple.

“The Cal Poly grads come to Apple, and they just hit the ground running,” Oppenheimer said.

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