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Feb 08, 2014 07:01 AM EST

Philanthropist Donates SDSU $20 Million for Endowed Scholarships; Largest Single Donation in School’s History

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San Diego State University, SDSU, received its largest single donation in the school's history. Conrad Prebys, a prominent Southern California developer and philanthropist, donated $20 million for the creation of several endowed scholarships to support at least 150 students annually.

The university officials said that the first scholarships will be awarded in the fall and will be applicable to former foster youths; student veterans; those pursuing biomedical research, engineering, and creative and performing arts; entrepreneurs and student government leaders, and those in the SDSU Honors program.

University President Elliot Hirshman said the donation would provide "life-changing opportunities" to selected students.

 "He's a man of extraordinary vision, integrity and generosity. As one of San Diego's most distinguished community leaders, he has literally and figuratively built San Diego from the group up through his real estate development and support of our cultural, artistic and medical institutions," Hirshman said, U-T San Diego reports.

Prebys said that he decided to invest money in scholarships due to rising tuition costs. Students take loans or work part-time to afford the education. Some graduates are burdened with loans and face challenges while repaying.

"The idea of scholarships for students intrigued me because I know how difficult it is going to college right now," said Prebys, who graduated from Indiana University, in a statement. "Back when I was going to school, it was no big deal to work while you were going to school. Now, it can't be done. It's very difficult and expensive."

Prebys said encouraging students to attend college makes him joyful and elated. "It is wonderful when you know you've done something right. You feel good about it."

Besides SDSU, Prebys has made large donations to several San Diego institutions, including Scripps Health, San Diego Zoo, the Old Globe Theatre and the Salk Institute.

Greg Block, the university spokesman, said that recognizing the generous contribution by Prebys, the school named its newly opened student center, the 'Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union,' after the philanthropist.

"With a gift this significant, we didn't want it to be forgotten," Block said. "If it was just endowing scholarships and there was no recognition of it anywhere, people wouldn't know."

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