Donations to ASU fund COVID-19 assistance, many other causes

October 12, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic upended students’ academic and personal lives during the spring, leaving several students in need of swift assistance.

Yaritza Hernandez Gil, a first-generation student who is double majoring at Arizona State University, was working two jobs to pay for college and living expenses when her work hours were cut because of the pandemic. Students wearing masks and social distancing Download Full Image

Around the same time, an ASU Law student was in the United Kingdom for an externship when the pandemic started shutting down countries, and she needed to quickly return to the United States. She was unprepared to incur the last minute travel expense.

Sun Devil supporters stepped up to aid both of these students and many more who found themselves in crisis from the pandemic. Donors provided more than 4,260 gifts earmarked for COVID-19-related student support, research and community resources between March and June, when the ASU Foundation’s fiscal year ended. Overall, the ASU Foundation raised $290 million during the year for ASU students, faculty, research and community programs.

“The engagement and generosity of ASU donors reflects their amazing commitment to student success and the advancement of new knowledge,” ASU President Michael Crow said. “In a year of unprecedented challenges and opportunities, support for our mission by those who share our vision has remained constant and we are deeply appreciative of that dedication to ASU and our learners.”

Hernandez Gil received emergency crisis funding in the form of grocery store gift cards from the Bridging Success program, which assisted her and other former foster youth who needed financial help.

“It’s tough to not get a paycheck,” Hernandez Gil said. “But this allows me to have meals for myself.”

Rick Barry, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law alumnus (’73), already had a scholarship established in the college, but wanted to do more for ASU when the pandemic hit. That’s when he learned about the Law Annual Fund, which supports urgent needs of the college at the discretion of the dean, and he was sold on the notion of helping as many student as possible.

“For those families that don’t have traditional support that I’ve always enjoyed, it’s really tough,” Berry said. “I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to help.”

Berry’s gift helped several ASU Law students including the one stranded in the United Kingdom. The student’s airfare was covered by the law fund, along with an Airbnb rental in which to complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine period when she returned. Since Berry’s gift, more than 40 other supporters donated to the fund.

When many community resources were forced to close or move to virtual offerings, donors stepped in to ensure their services could continue. Donations to the ASU Speech and Hearing Clinic enabled many of the clinic’s telehealth services to be free during the summer.

Additional private support aided the Biodesign Institute’s COVID-19 research and testing kits and provided personal protective equipment to medical professionals.

“We are very grateful for the generosity we received, both for COVID-19-related resources and for donations to support ASU’s vision to solve grand problems that will improve lives and enhance our communities,” ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig said. “Donors have the ability to support causes they are passionate about and every donation – large or small – makes an impact on students, faculty and the community.”

Donors enabled more than 7,900 unique undergraduate and graduate students to receive $29.2 million in scholarships last school year, according to preliminary data counts. That is a nearly 6% increase in students who received a scholarship compared with the preceding year.

Scholarship recipient Amalie Strange is a first-generation student who graduated in May with bachelor’s degrees in biological sciences and Spanish from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and she returned this fall in pursuit of her PhD in animal behavior.

“I don't think I would have been able to make it to this point if I didn't have those scholarships,” Strange said.

Four siblings – Brett, Chase, Scott and Jenna Fitzgerald – who graduated from ASU with distinction from Barrett, The Honors College established a $25,000 endowed scholarship to give back to the community that gave them so much.

“Barrett has enabled my entire family to find fast and frequent success in our careers and we thought it fitting to, in turn, start paying back early and often” Chase said.

Support for faculty remained strong with 39 gifts totaling $4.8 million for faculty chairs and professorships. Rhett Larson, a professor in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law was recently named the first Richard Morrison Professorship in Water Law.

“Richard Morrison has been my friend and mentor since I was a young water lawyer,” Larson said. “He’s also been a leader in Arizona water policy. It’s an honor to hold a position that bears his name.”

Faculty not only benefitted from private support, but also donated to causes they were passionate about. Nearly 1,600 faculty and staff donated to ASU during the fiscal year.

Returning faculty member Alexandra Navrotsky donated money to establish the Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe to bring science and engineering together for materials and space exploration.

Private support also funded a variety of programs and initiatives during the year.

One of those gifts came from State Farm to establish the Pathways for the Future initiative. The $30 million gift will provide education and career development opportunities for high school and community college students, as well as adults in the workforce who need to update their skills.

Campaign ASU 2020 publicly launched in January 2017 to raise the long-term fundraising capacity of the university and focuses on six priorities including student access and excellence; student success; the academic enterprise; discovery, creativity and innovation; enriching our communities; and Sun Devil competitiveness. The fundraising campaign ends on Dec. 31.

Michelle Stermole

Director of communications, Enterprise Partners


Edson seed grants advance innovative dementia solutions

September 24, 2020

More than $300,000 from the Charlene and J. Orin Edson Initiative for Dementia Care and Solutions was awarded to three Arizona State University research teams for innovative research projects. The funding comes from a portion of Charlene and J. Orin Edson’s $50 million gift to ASU for dementia research and education initiatives. 

The Edson Initiative for Dementia Care and Solutions aims to revolutionize care for individuals suffering from neurological disease and support their caregivers. The Edson Initiative will support collaborative research aimed at understanding the roots of dementia in order to treat, detect and prevent its occurrence in patients. older man looks at wife, who is staring out Funding from the Charlene and J. Orin Edson Initiative for Dementia Care and Solutions supports research projects into neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer's and dementia. Download Full Image

“The Edsons have been very generous to Arizona State University over the years with multiple endowed and nonendowed gifts to a variety of research causes,” said Joshua LaBaer, executive director of ASU’s Biodesign Institute. “We are excited to see this vital funding propel innovative researchers and students forward in making impacts that help those suffering from dementias and other neurodegenerative diseases.”

Proposals awarded the seed funding by Biodesign embody the spirit of the Edson Initiative for Dementia Care and Solutions by bringing together scientific experts and students from different disciplines to create solutions to the challenges of neurological disease.

Protein-based therapies for neurological disease

Michael Sierks, a professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy; Jeremy Mills, an assistant professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and the Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics; and Brent Nannenga, an assistant professor in the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery and the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, were awarded funding to analyze toxic proteins in neurodegenerative diseases.

The team will develop and apply high-resolution imaging techniques to characterize the structure of proteins commonly found in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients. The information discovered from these studies will be used to develop protein-based therapies to fight the mechanisms of toxic proteins in degenerative neurological diseases.

Interdisciplinary living learning lab

Another team led by David Coon, associate dean and professor in the Edson College of Nursing and Health InnovationPhilip Horton, interim director of The Design School; and Patricia Moore, an industrial designer and gerontologist, received funding to create the Edson Family Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center Living Learning Lab.

The lab will bring together scientists and clinical researchers from across ASU to design, test and implement tools that improve care — from everyday object use and behavior management approaches to health care systems and homes of the future. The research outcomes will provide a platform to build real-world solutions for those living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their family caregivers.

Uncovering molecular mechanisms of poor cognition

The final team, awarded for their work to decipher the underlying molecular mechanisms leading to cognitive dysfunction in Alzheimer's patients, is led by Ramon Velazquez, an assistant research professor at the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center. Velazquez will be collaborating with Patrick Pirrotte, an assistant professor at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, and Matthew Huentelman, head of the Neurobehavioral Research Unit at TGen.

Velazquez’s team will be determining whether exposure to glyphosate, a common herbicide used to prevent plants from making proteins needed for their growth, is a risk factor for cognitive deterioration leading to Alzheimer’s disease. The team will utilize findings on environmental toxin mechanisms to better understand how exposure to chemical agents in people’s daily lives can affect their risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases.

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Entrepreneur's legacy honored with establishment of institute

September 2, 2020

J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute announced

J. Orin Edson was the quintessential entrepreneur. He cared deeply for his community and believed others should have the resources to pursue their entrepreneurial visions.

Edson, who died in 2019 at the age of 87, built his first boat when he was just a kid. By his 20s, he was building boats through a small company that he built into Bayliner Marine Corp., which was the largest manufacturer of luxury boats when he sold the company in 1986. He went on to buy a majority interest in Westport Yachts in 1992 and grew it into a successful yacht-building company before selling his shares.

He and his wife, Charlene, wanted other aspiring entrepreneurs to have similar opportunities for success. They have donated to programs at Arizona State University since 2005 with an initial gift that created the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative. Additional endowed and nonendowed gifts to support entrepreneurship followed.

J. Orin Edson smiling on a boat

J. Orin Edson was a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist who gave generously to help ASU students pursue their dreams and obtain real-world experiences. Photo courtesy of the J. Orin Edson family

Today, Edson’s legacy is being honored with the establishment of the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute at Arizona State University. The naming recognizes the Edsons’ longstanding commitment to further entrepreneurship support at ASU, which includes an additional endowed gift. The newly formed institute provides an overarching home for the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative and the Edson Training and Development Network at ASU, which was formed from an Edson gift in 2018.

“It is an honor for Orin’s life and spirit to be alive at ASU, carrying on the entrepreneurial passion he thrived on,” Charlene Edson said.

Establishing the Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute also enables ASU to expand its portfolio of entrepreneurial programs and initiatives in perpetuity. The primary focus of the institute will always remain ASU students and faculty, and the institute will continue to provide support from as young as middle school youth to lifelong learners.

“Renaming the home of entrepreneurship at Arizona State University in honor of J. Orin Edson is a heartfelt tribute to the enduring legacy of one of America’s most dedicated and prolific innovators and education advocates," ASU President Michael M. Crow said." We are immensely proud to carry the Edson name into the future as a hallmark of unparalleled entrepreneurial education and practice capable of changing the world.”

Success through Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation programs

Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute offers a robust suite of support and resources to serve students, faculty and community members to nurture ideas into fruition. Aside from collaborations with several ASU academic programs and colleges, Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation also facilitates multiple funding opportunities, communal working spaces for ventures at all stages, training and development resources and a mentor network.

“This generous gift will allow us to solidify the foundation for our portfolio of entrepreneurial programs and initiatives, as well as set the stage for new collaborative efforts and partnerships across the communities we serve,” said Neal Woodbury, ASU Knowledge Enterprise interim executive vice president and chief science and technology officer. “The J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute will continue to create opportunities for student entrepreneurs and communitywide programming to have a substantial socioeconomic impact on our region.”

The entrepreneurship program has received numerous awards over the years, including being one of the first 12 national programs selected for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Inclusion Challenge to engage diverse entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds, ensuring that communities reach their full potential.

“Our goal is to nurture entrepreneurs for life. It requires that we seek to develop the whole person, to empower everyone to do good while doing well; to build a life, while making a living building products and providing services that bring value to society,” said Ji Mi Choi, founding executive director of the Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute and associate vice president of ASU Knowledge Enterprise, who has led Entrepreneurship + Innovation since 2015. “While there are more resources and opportunities for entrepreneurs, far too many people still lack access. All innovators, regardless of gender, race, age, sexual orientation or background, should have the opportunity to develop and exercise their entrepreneurship. The Edson E+I Institute’s suite of resources and services will integrate all our practice areas and programs for ASU students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community here in greater Phoenix and nationally.”

Since the inception of the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative in 2005, students have been able to transform their ideas into viable ventures with significant impact. There have been 297 student-led ventures supported to date. More than 40 patents have been filed and more than $46 million in external funding raised. Payout from the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative to assist students totals nearly $3 million.

The initial Edson gift formed an endowment that gives ASU students the opportunity to pursue their creative and business goals by providing seed money to help them in their entrepreneurial quests. The awards are for any type of business — ranging from high-tech for-profit startups to nonprofit public-sector ventures. The endowed initiative was designed to spur innovative thought and entrepreneurial spirit in ASU students by providing them the means to pursue their ideas.

In 2018, the Edson Training and Development Network was established from an endowed gift from the Edsons to accelerate innovative talent and increase capacity to train Edson entrepreneurs in greater numbers through an expanded training and development network, enhanced curriculum to augment and complement academic curriculum and on-demand programming. Payout from the endowment has expanded the program into a full year of entrepreneurial training using a co-curricular training suite. It has also provided support for faculty to develop and offer extra- and co-curricular training utilizing a wide range of subject matter expertise.

Over the past five years ASU has increasingly supported student-led teams, growing the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative from supporting 20 student led teams per year to now supporting more than 500 student led teams through the Entrepreneurship + Innovation Venture Devils program, while growing its community programs including a national youth entrepreneurship program.

During the Venture Devils’ Demo Day held every semester, hundreds of thousands of dollars in seed funding is awarded. Freda Sarfo, a master’s degree student in global logistics, won $5,000 in May to expand her enterprise, Tropical Almond. In 2019 she won $4,000 during the entrepreneurial competition to build a small processing facility in Ghana where she grew up.

Sarfo’s enterprise uses Ghana’s tropical almond trees, which are planted for shade and produce nuts that are less sweet than those found in the United States so they often go to waste.

Tropical Almond hires women to collect and crack the almonds, which are then cold pressed and the oil is packaged and sold as a hair product. The nut byproduct is processed into nutritious snacks. For every bottle of almond oil sold, one bag of high-protein snacks is donated. In the first three months, Sarfo sold 350 bottles through her online store. During her presentation in May, Sarfo said she provided income for more than 100 single mothers and fed more than 100 children this year with the snack byproduct.

There are numerous success stories similar to Sarfo’s because ASU has developed a comprehensive ecosystem that includes support for faculty including through programs like the prestigious National Science Foundation I-Corps program, various funding sources, mentors, multiple innovation spaces, co-curricular programs addied to academic courses and community programs that support all entrepreneurs to thrive. The Edsons have played a pivotal role in contributing to entrepreneurial initiatives at ASU.

Edson gifts to spur innovation across ASU

The Edsons have made a transformative impact on the ASU community, donating $70 million to colleges, units and programs.

In addition to generous support to Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation over the years, the Edsons made a $50 million gift that was announced in March 2019 and split evenly between two ASU programs with a focus on health care. The gift renamed the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and established The Grace Center for Innovation in Nursing Education (named for Charlene’s mother, who was a nurse) to enhance education and training for nurses and caregivers. The other half of the gift benefited the Biodesign Institute for research on causes and cures of dementia, as well as tools to manage the disease.

“The passion and generosity of the Edson family over the years has made a huge impact on the ASU community that will resonate for generations,” said Gretchen Buhlig, ASU Foundation chief executive officer. “Their continued support will help students pursue their entrepreneurial dreams, following in Orin’s footsteps.”

Top photo: A group of ASU students meet for an Entrepreneurship Catalysts virtual meetup to discuss ideas and serve as a peer resource for all things entrepreneurship happening at ASU. Photo courtesy of J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute 

Michelle Stermole

Director of communications , Enterprise Partners


ASU Enterprise Partners awarded for trailblazing technology use

June 25, 2020

ASU Enterprise Partners was awarded the Dave Perry Excellence in Innovation Award by for being a trailblazer that uses technology in an unconventional way to enhance the donor experience.

ASU Enterprise Partners, parent organization to the ASU Foundation for a New American University, was recognized for implementing Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud e-commerce technology on the ASU Foundation website. The award was announced virtually during Salesforce’s eighth annual Higher Education Summit. The Dave Perry Excellence in Innovation Award recognizes a college or university that uses Salesforce to advance recruiting, student success, advancement, marketing or engagement. It is named after a Salesforce employee who was integral in higher education data architecture and passed away in 2017. ASU Foundation website screenshot of donor funds available The ASU Foundation website features an e-commerce platform for an enhanced donor experience. Download Full Image

“What was innovative is we’re the first higher education nonprofit to implement the Commerce Cloud for online giving,” said Zach Lisi, director of solutions development for ASU Enterprise Partners and an integral part of the multidisciplinary team that implemented Commerce Cloud. “The old platform was very basic. We wanted to give donors the ability to go to the ASU Foundation website and do research, look up funds, learn about those funds and see the impact of how they affect students directly.”

Not only was the nonprofit the first to use a platform that is commonly used among online retailers, but the implementation team transitioned the ASU Foundation giving experience on a very aggressive timeline.

ASU Enterprise Partners worked with a seasoned partner to implement the platform and was told such implementations typically take a year, but some companies have implemented Commerce Cloud in six months, Lisi said.

ASU Enterprise Partners implemented the platform in just 12 weeks.        

“They were very skeptical. We made it happen,” Lisi said.

Other ASU Enterprise Partners implementation team members included Melissa Bordow, Jana Brown, Andrew Carey, Anna Consie, Jorge De Cossio, Chris Dizon, Carey Fredlake, Melissa Kwilosz, Liz Levenson, Gabe Martinez, Lauren Mitchell, Blake Pappas, Erin Sherman, Debbie Williams and Serah Ye.

Commerce Cloud enables donors to search by cause instead of fund name, similar to how a consumer searches for an article of clothing from their favorite online retailers.

The e-commerce experience allows each of the nearly 600 fund pages to provide a visual representation of the fund through videos and photos, stories about what the fund is intended to do and the impact the donor can make through the fund, said Fredlake, director of strategic outreach for ASU Enterprise Partners.

If a donor is interested in funds related to COVID-19 research, they can search for that interest and learn more about funds focused on that cause, Lisi said.

“People aren’t necessarily donating to a school they are an alumni of,” he said. “People want to give money to things they’re passionate about.”

Commerce Cloud reduced the time it takes a donor to donate and the additional visuals and information led to a 25% increase in gift amount, Fredlake said, adding that there has also been an increase in conversion rates compared to nonprofit industry benchmarks.

ASU Enterprise Partners has used the Salesforce customer relationship management platform for a few years and recently added Salesforce’s gift processing tools.

“We’re just starting the journey of what this can turn into,” Lisi said of the potential for the Commerce Cloud platform in the future.

It could become a donor portal to see giving history and provide endowed scholarship reports and donation tax documents, he said, adding that it could also be used to sign up people for volunteer and mentor opportunities at ASU.

The foundation can provide a more targeted and personalized experience to donors between Commerce Cloud and Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud.

“Commerce Cloud is a robust tool in our toolbox, which has provided a streamlined, storytelling focused donation experience,” Fredlake said. “It has become a natural extension to the stories shared through our donor journeys.”

Other higher education foundations have reached out to ASU Enterprise Partners to learn more about the possibilities because of its success, Lisi said.

“It was a big effort, it was a big team, it took a lot of resources and dedication,” he said. “We should all be very proud of what we accomplished.”

Michelle Stermole

Director of communications, Enterprise Partners


Changing the world one student at a time

May 27, 2020

Wendy Peia Oakes is an associate professor at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, and has been a faculty member since 2012. Her research and teaching continue a mission she undertook nearly 30 years and three degrees ago as a middle school teacher in a self-contained special education classroom: improving educational access and outcomes for students with emotional and behavioral disorders.

But the much older students she teaches today, along with her faculty colleagues, will attest she invests as much time and energy working to support the ASU students in her classes as she did in her 13 years as a special education teacher. Oakes knows that the quality of education that children with special needs receive tomorrow depends on nurturing their prospective teachers now. And she says the relationships those teacher candidates experience with each other and their professors are vital to their future success in one of public education’s most challenging specialties. man and woman posing and smiling Dan and Wendy Peia Oakes, creators of the Oakes Peia Scholarship. Download Full Image

“As special educators, every day we have an opportunity to positively impact the life of a child and their family,” Oakes says. “It is a profession in which every day is exciting, challenging and rewarding. Special education teachers are a talented group of professionals committed to creating positive learning experiences for each child to grow and develop.”

Oakes’ students may not be aware of the commitment she shares with her husband, Dan, to working outside the classroom to enable their success; a commitment they demonstrate by financially supporting scholarships for MLFTC students. And this year, they went a step further, with an endowment that created the Oakes Peia Scholarship, which will be awarded to students who plan to enter the special education field.

The scholarship bears both names of this couple who met more than 30 years ago when Daniel Oakes and Wendy Peia were students at the University of Maryland. Wendy’s roommate, who had worked with Dan, introduced them. Four years later, they were married.

Since leaving the pre-K–12 public school system, Wendy completed her PhD at ASU in 2009, then became an instructor and research associate for the Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt University before returning to MLFTC in 2012. Dan is chief operating officer for Randstad SourceRight, a North American talent acquisition firm that’s part of the Dutch multinational, Randstad.

Three years ago, Dan and Wendy decided the time was right to start donating to scholarship support for MLFTC students. What made the time right, Wendy says, was, “... when our youngest graduated from ASU! We were finished paying for tuition for our girls” — they have two — “and we thought we could help support other students completing their degrees.”

“Helping others has always been a strong value in our family,” agrees Dan, “and we are extremely fortunate to be in a financial situation to do so. I’m always saddened by the stories I hear from Wendy or her students about the hardships of getting to their teaching placements or buying supplies, and of how difficult it is to stay in school.”

That’s part of what motivated the couple to give an additional gift to the Dean McGrath Scholarship fund this year. The McGrath Scholarship provides emergency assistance to MLFTC students facing unforeseen circumstances — lack of food or transportation, or unexpected outstanding fees — to help them stay on track to earning their degree. “We hope that gift gives someone a financial lift that enables them to keep pursuing their teaching dreams,” Dan says.

The McGrath scholarship has been doubly vital this spring as the coronavirus pandemic has upended not only ASU’s academic year, but the American economy. Wendy says, “We know many of our students hold multiple jobs — including in businesses that have closed. And many of them have families and small children and are already living on tight budgets as they attend school. We knew the need would increase for the emergency funding. We are fortunate that both Dan and I and both our daughters are still employed.”

Creating a scholarship after years of gifts to others seemed like a natural step to Wendy and Dan. “At the time we had decided to support the immediate needs of students,” Wendy says, “but we really liked the idea of a long-term ability to support future teachers as well.”

Still, a natural step is not always a small one, and while Wendy says the MLFTC development staff made the endowment process easy, it is a substantial commitment — one the couple felt strongly was right for them.

Dan says, “President Obama spoke at Wendy’s graduation at ASU when she received her doctorate, and he challenged the graduates to go out and change the world. The work Wendy does now, and has been doing since I met her 30 years ago, is so inspiring to me. So providing a scholarship with which we can help other teachers and students achieve their dreams and be able to change the world was an easy decision.”

Wendy says the best thing she could hear from a graduate who receives the Oakes Peia Scholarship and enters the field she has devoted her life to, is “... that they love their work! And I look forward to hearing about gains made or successes by their students or a student’s family.”

The long-term result Dan hopes for is, “... that we help students achieve their dreams of becoming teachers, and that they are able to touch the lives of many of their students — changing the world one student at a time.”

 Written by: Erik Ketcherside

Shayla Angeline Cunico

Student digital content specialist, ASU Enterprise Partners


Donor support helps ASU Law students in wake of pandemic

May 11, 2020

An ASU Law student was in the United Kingdom for an externship when the coronavirus swiftly began shutting down countries.

When the United Kingdom was added to the U.S. travel ban list on March 14, the student was notified by ASU that she would need to make arrangements to leave as soon as possible. Seven weeks of the spring semester remained. Beus Center for Law and Society exterior building photo The Beus Center for Law and Society, home of Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law in downtown Phoenix. Photo by Meg Potter/ASU Now Download Full Image

“I was not at all prepared to incur such a last-minute expense,” she said.

Five thousand miles away, Rick Berry was considering how best to lend a helping hand as the world around him faced a new, stark reality. Berry decided to reach out to his alma mater.

He already had a student scholarship established at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. But he wanted to do more. That’s when he learned about the Law Annual Fund, which supports the most urgent needs of the college at the discretion of the dean.

A longtime admirer of Dean Douglas Sylvester’s leadership, Berry was immediately sold on the idea: Support as many students in need as possible as quickly as possible.

“For those families that don’t have traditional support that I’ve always enjoyed,” Berry said, “it’s really tough. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to help.”

Back in the United Kingdom, the ASU Law student was alerted that her airfare would be paid for by the law school. She would also be receiving funds from ASU Law that would cover an Airbnb rental she could stay in upon her return during the mandatory two-week quarantine period for those having traveled abroad.

The emergency support provided by the Law Annual Fund was critical.

“I am deeply appreciative of the donor's generosity that made it possible for ASU Law to provide much-needed support during these incredibly tumultuous times,” she said. 

Berry’s generosity was felt in many other corners of the ASU Law community, as well. More than 40 additional donors have since stepped up and made a gift to the fund.

“I am graduating in a few weeks, and hopefully taking the bar in July,” another ASU Law student said. “With all the uncertainty surrounding that exam and the legal economy, it is a great blessing to have people like Mr. Berry generously donating to help students."

Berry, who earned his bachelor’s degree in insurance (1969) and a Juris Doctor degree (1973) from ASU Law, has been practicing law in the Valley for more than 40 years. He has consistently supported ASU Law during that time, pointing to the university’s inclusive spirit.

“Everyone has an opportunity to be successful at ASU’s law school, no matter what background you come from,” he said. “Everyone is welcome.”

 Jane Lee

Copywriter, ASU Enterprise Partners


InvestU gains traction as a catalyst for Arizona’s venture ecosystem

March 10, 2020

Arizona entrepreneurs who are enthusiastic about bringing a new technology to market face many obstacles, but many agree the biggest determinant to developing their vision is funding. 

“Outside of New York and California, raising capital to start a technology company is very difficult,” said Paulo Shakarian, founder of Cyber Reconnaissance, Inc. (CYR3CON), a new, Arizona-based technology startup. “The venture markets are less mature in Arizona than in other parts of the country.” InvestU entrepreneurship pitch event, venture capital Participants in InvestU's pitch events have the opportunity to make meaningful investments in the growth of companies that will fuel Arizona's economy. Download Full Image

To support Arizona’s venture ecosystem, Arizona State University Enterprise Partners and the former Thunderbird Angel Network joined forces to increase access to early-stage funding for growth-oriented startups through InvestU

“InvestU played a key role in overcoming this challenge by bringing investment and entrepreneurial stakeholders together — driving innovation,” Shakarian said. “CYR3CON has successfully raised capital and integrated with the local community through InvestU. It has proven to be a key step toward maturing Arizona’s innovation community.” 

The lack of capital for technology ventures not only hinders a company’s potential for success, but also slows Arizona’s ability to drive economic growth and build enterprises for greater societal impact. As an angel investing platform focused on advancing the vitality of Arizona, InvestU sources and curates a selection of state and university originated or affiliated startups to connect with accredited investors.

"It's incredible to see the caliber of companies that are coming out of the university and Arizona community," said Marcel Valenta, head of enterprise development at ASU Enterprise Partners and InvestU executive board member. "We're proud to be the convener of top talent among the entrepreneurial and investment communities and connecting them with the resources and innovation that ASU and Thunderbird have to offer. InvestU's pitch events provide an accessible and effective forum for leaders from the venture community to come together as a like-minded community and make meaningful investments in the growth and success of companies that will fuel Arizona's future economy."

InvestU leverages its connection to the No. 1 most innovative university and No. 1 graduate school for global management to give investors unique access to technological innovations that directly or indirectly arise from students, faculty or the more than half a million alumni around the world. In turn, investors provide capital and mentorship to help accelerate startup growth and catalyze economic development through job creation and innovation. 

“It’s in Arizona’s and the nation’s best interest to have strong and continual sources of innovation,” said Ji MI Choi, associate vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at ASU. “It’s a necessary part of not only economic development, but also community development. Thriving and continually renewing ecosystems are sustainable and cultivate stronger and more resilient communities.”

Since its inception a year ago, InvestU has had a tremendous year of success. The program held four pitch events with seven technology startups vying for capital investment. Each pitch event saw on average about 75 to 100 community and business leaders who support innovation and entrepreneurship. The pitch events resulted in over one million dollars in capital being committed to startups poised for significant impact.   

Building a dynamic environment supportive of innovation and entrepreneurship

Entrepreneur Bret Larsen had an innovative idea to transform the way health care providers deliver care to their patients. He founded eVisit, a virtual care platform providing technology and infrastructure for large hospitals and physician groups, to connect with patients remotely for improved outcomes and revenue. 

Larsen showcased eVisit at an InvestU pitch event in October 2019. eVisit received approximately $300,000 of investment capital from the InvestU network of angel investors. Since inception, the company has grown to serve patients in all 50 states, enabling health care systems to simplify the care they provide through virtual visits. Further, the company landed partnerships with leading health systems in the nation, such as Banner Health and Honor Health.

“As an early stage company going after a huge market, we spend a lot of time pitching to investors,” Larsen said. “InvestU has connected eVisit with various investors that we would not have met otherwise. They also went beyond capital investment and leveraged their network to help accelerate our company’s growth. They helped us get access to local health care leaders, which has been very valuable.” 

In 2012, Larsen graduated with bachelor’s degrees in accounting and marketing from the W. P. Carey School of Business. He expressed gratitude for the InvestU program because it helps catalyze high-growth entrepreneurial activity from the state and university. Additionally, it expanded the impact of eVisit. 

“I’m grateful to be a beneficiary of InvestU’s commitment to Sun Devils,” Larsen said. “I think any angel investing group focused on helping Arizona technology companies succeed and grow is what Arizona needs. We have a lot of opportunity here and a lot of really good talent in the market.”

Shakarian, who is also a Fulton Entrepreneurial Professor in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, was also grateful to raise funds for his faculty-affiliated cybersecurity startup through an InvestU pitch event.   

CYR3CON harnesses the power of artificial intelligence to predict the use of software exploits. The cybersecurity platform allows large enterprises to allocate security resources in a way that prevents cyberattacks before they happen.

Since attending the pitch event in March, CYR3CON has seen tremendous success. Last year, the company’s annual recurring revenue more than doubled and more than half of its non-government revenue was earned in the fourth quarter alone. CYR3CON was also selected as a distinguished vendor in the 2020 TAG Cyber Security Annual.

“The first piece to building a dynamic entrepreneurial investment community is exposing entrepreneurs to the right investors who are willing to take risks and bring new technologies to the market,” Shakarian said. “People need to network. They need to get to know each other. That’s how you grow the community and increase the availability of capital. It also increases the level of trust between entrepreneurs and investors.” 

ASU alumnus Rashad Jazzar was one of the first investor members of InvestU. He works for HHB, a family owned and operated investment firm in the Valley with more than 60 years of combined real estate, construction and investment experience. Jazzar noted the firm is always looking for ways to diversify their portfolio and provide a greater benefit for the masses.

“Arizona is the stomping grounds of institutions renowned for being the leader in innovation and having the top global management program, respectively,” Jazzar said. “Creating a healthy venture ecosystem to surround and potentially support such a high caliber of output is the component that will lead to the materialization of great ventures in science, business and technology.”

Since becoming an InvestU member, Jazzar has found getting access and exposure to quality startups and ventures in their early stages of funding has been “as easy as attending a catered event and listening to reputable accomplished speakers.” He said the InvestU process is more approachable than going through the traditional route, and he’s been pleased with the program’s affiliation to ASU.

“I haven’t seen a company pitched through InvestU that I didn’t think was interesting and had the right amount of traction to seek further funding. This tells me that the vetting and criteria placed by InvestU is of high standard,” Jazzar said. “And of the companies I’ve actually invested in, I’m very pleased to say that it has been a positive outcome with the companies seeing growth and achieving milestones.”

Preparing future leaders to drive the continued growth of Arizona’s venture ecosystem

During the past year, graduate students from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and the W. P. Carey School of Business have played an integral role with InvestU. Through ASU’s startup investing course, students partake in the startup vetting process.

The InvestU operating team sources and screens a number of startups for consideration. The team puts together a curated list of investment opportunities for the students to complete additional research and due diligence on. Students then present their findings to the InvestU Advisory Board, which selects the company finalists for each InvestU pitch event, and a handful of students present their research findings during the event to investors.

The graduate-level startup investing course gives students the opportunity to examine opportunities in different early stage firm settings. Students conduct a broad spectrum of research on the entrepreneurial firms who are applying for candidate status at InvestU. They look at markets and growth potential, products and competitors, business models, management teams, financial projects and deal structures.

“Having students involved in due diligence research makes the InvestU process more valuable for investing members because they receive an immediate and independent outlook about the candidate firms,” said Gary Gibbons, a clinical associate professor at Thunderbird School of Global Management. “The investors, who are typically a part of the ASU community, also have the opportunity to interact with and mentor these students. So, it also provides a nonmonetary benefit that’s engaging for investing members.”

The course enables students to be part of the investing process outside the theoretical world of lectures and classrooms. Students gain practical experience and have the unique opportunity to see real clients, firms, investors and capital transacting. Students also learn how the venture ecosystem is a crucial part of the business landscape and how they play a role in the continued growth of the ecosystem in Arizona.

“Arizona has a lot going for it,” said Gibbons, an expert in investing and corporate finance. “We have one of the most innovative environments in the university ecosystem. We also have industries very high up in world rankings, such as semiconductors and health care. Those two sectors represent very large portions of our gross domestic product here in the state, so we need an ecosystem that’s independent of other regions if we want to continue to develop those sectors and other technology sectors.”

Amanda Stoneman

Senior Marketing Content Specialist, EdPlus


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POSTPONED: What do you care about at ASU? Show your support on Sun Devil Giving Day

March 6, 2020

March 15 update — ASU friends: We have made the difficult decision to postpone Sun Devil Giving Day. In light of the many challenges this pandemic has placed on our university, our state and our country, we believe it best to not distract people from their highest personal and professional priorities right now. More information will be made available at a future date.


On March 19, the Sun Devil family will join together for the eighth annual Sun Devil Giving Day, a one-day celebration of generosity in which Arizona State University supporters give to their passions through the university. 

Last year, more than 9,300 supporters gave a record-breaking $11.4 million to support ASU students, faculty, staff, programs and causes. 

Sun Devil Giving Day graphic

“Sun Devil Giving Day is a great way to give to any person, program or cause that you care about at ASU,” said Andrew Carey, associate vice president of donor outreach for the ASU Foundation. “It gives ASU the margin of excellence it needs to innovate and elevate the university experience for all students, faculty and staff.”

For example, donors to the ASU Family Scholarship enabled civil engineering student Messar Mustafa to pursue her goal of attaining an engineering degree.

“Becoming an engineer was one of my dreams as a kid, but with the cost of college and everything it can be a little overwhelming,” Mustafa said. “The scholarship has allowed me to achieve my dreams.” 

ASU student Messar Mustafa

Donors to the ASU Family Scholarship enabled student Messar Mustafa to pursue her goal of attaining a civil engineering degree.

The ASU Family Scholarship requires recipients to maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA and complete volunteer hours that they dedicate to ASU events. Mustafa says those hours greatly enhanced her college experience.

On Sun Devil Giving Day, supporters impact not only the lives of students, but also research and learning across the university. 

In the Department of Psychology, Professor Clive Wynne leads the Canine Science Collaboratory, which seeks to improve the lives of millions of dogs who live in shelters.

Through Sun Devil Giving Day, donors have supported research that helps reduce the stress of the animals' lives and find them lasting homes.

Sun Devil Giving Day donors have increased access to the arts through their generosity to ASU Gammage. Their gifts to the Cultural Participation program have enabled people of all ages and economic backgrounds to experience community arts programs and world-class artists.

For many children, the Cultural Participation program is their first opportunity to experience the performing arts.


Video by ASU Enterprise Partners

There are many ways to participate in Sun Devil Giving Day: 

• Join the discussion and enjoy stories, videos, games and trivia on social media by following ASU Foundation on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

• Share a story using the hashtag #SunDevilGiving and encourage family and friends to do the same. 

• Students can vote for the cause they’re most passionate about between March 9-19 through My ASU.

• Anyone can make an online gift on March 19 at to any area of ASU.

Everyone is invited to show support for the causes they are passionate about, including first-generation students, clean-water projects, the environment, arts and culture accessibility and cancer research.

Written by Shayla Cunico

Shayla Angeline Cunico

Student digital content specialist , ASU Enterprise Partners


Cantelme Scholars demonstrate a passion for public service

February 18, 2020

Breanna Smith can’t wait to put on events. She’s organizing a fairly good-size one now. More on that in a moment.

A junior studying tourism development and management in Arizona State University’s School of Community Resources and Development, Smith identifies herself as “one of those people.” As in, “one of those who are really involved students,” she said. Cantelme Scholars, Arizona State University, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions 2019-2020 Pat Cantelme and the 2019-20 Cantelme Scholars. Download Full Image

The kind of student whose sheer volume of activity makes them stand out to the people who award scholarships and travel opportunities. But as active as she is, Smith said being tapped as a Cantelme Scholar caught her off guard.

“I was incredibly surprised,” she said, adding that she does what she always does. “I’m one of those people who sees something that needs to be done and I just do it.”

That good-size event she’s hunting for volunteers for? It’s a combination “culture/pop block party” involving the West Valley cities of Avondale and Goodyear to be held in late March at Estrella Mountain Community College, where Smith attended before transferring to ASU.

Breanna Smith, Cantelme Scholar, ASU Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Breanna Smith, a junior majoring in tourism development and management, is a 2019-20 Cantelme Scholar.

She plans to use the experience as the basis for creating a permanent volunteer program among community college and high school students interested in events work.

The Cantelme Scholars are named for retired Phoenix Fire Capt. Pat Cantelme, who is co-founder, president and chairman of the board of the CDH Charitable Foundation, an Arizona-based private foundation that focuses largely on scholarship funding for Arizona residents attending the state’s public universities with a demonstrated passion for public service.

Cantelme, who became a fire captain at the age of 25, was president of the United Phoenix Firefighters, Local 494. He was significantly involved in restoring the historic buildings on West Van Buren Street that are now The Van Buren concert venue and State 48 Brewery.

The Cantelme Scholars program resides within the Public Service Academy, which is administered by the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. This year, the CDH Foundation provided generous tuition funding for 10 ASU students who graduated from Arizona high schools and provided stipends allowing students to take part in ASU Study Abroad programs.

Within the Public Service Academy, 172 majors are represented among students who, like Smith, want to make a difference in society by engaging in such activities as joining the Peace Corps, Teach for America, AmeriCorps, Vista, the U.S. military and the National Laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico, in addition to several public, for-profit and nonprofit entities, said Public Service Academy Executive Director Brett Hunt.

In addition to the requirements of their majors, Public Service Academy students take six more classes through the academy resulting in a certificate in cross-sector leadership. Smith is also pursuing a certificate in special events management.

Cantelme’s dedication to his community is a passion Smith said she wants to share with others.

“When I read about who Pat is and all his achievement at such a young age, it’s something I really connect with, his finding a need and filling it,” she said.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


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ASU alumni pay it forward by endowing scholarship for master's in aging program

February 17, 2020

A new program at Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation is preparing students to advance the well-being of our aging society.

That program, the Master of Science in aging, caught the attention of Dianne and Alan Perry, ASU graduates from the Class of 1974.  

The idea of elevating care to address the multidimensional aging process and the specific needs of older adults across disciplines was particularly appealing to the couple. 

Dianne, an alumna of the nursing program and longtime hospice nurse, has witnessed a disturbing trend when it comes to the treatment of older patients.

“You’re no longer acknowledged and what you say no longer has meaning when you get older in the current system,” she said. 

That, coupled with the very personal experience of seeing their own parents suffer in this system as a result of their age, moved the Perrys to start thinking of ways to help address this issue.

Alan, an alumnus of the engineering school, had his own successful career running a construction company. The couple, who met in high school, are both grateful for the education they received at ASU and, since they’re in a position to give back, they began exploring their options.

On a visit to Edson College, they learned more about the master's degree in aging and were impressed by the faculty expertise and the work already underway to tackle this issue. Then, they had the chance to meet some of the students and see their dedication to this work up close.

“I was blown away by the passion of the kids there who really want to change the world they live in, and I believe that they can do it," Dianne said. "That’s the kind of thing that we want to support.”

And so, in memory of their parents, the Dianne and Alan Perry Scholarship was created for students who enroll in the master's degree. 

With this generous endowment, the Perrys are the first donors to support this program, and they’re thrilled about it.

“We have to change the medical system, and ASU is focusing in that direction, to change medicine for the better and not leave this population behind,” said Dianne.

Students who meet the criteria for the scholarship will have a nursing background, financial need and a passion for working with the aging population, assisting them to live active and meaningful lives.

While they're taking the extraordinary step of endowing a scholarship, Dianne is quick to point out that giving to a collegiate program or issue you care about doesn’t have to be as grand to make an impact.

“Anybody can do this. You don’t have to donate at the level we did; we were blessed to be able to do that. Even if you have an extra $10 and you put it aside every month, in a couple of years you’ll have some cash to give. And if you feel very strongly about a cause or program, you need to participate in a monetary way because all of these things cost money. We would love for it not to be that way, but in reality it does and we have to be aware of that and financially support these efforts.” 

If you are interested in contributing to the Dianne and Alan Perry Scholarship or creating a scholarship for Edson College students, please contact

Top photo: Alan and Dianne Perry, ASU Class of 1974, have endowed a new scholarship for the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation's Master of Science in aging program.

Amanda Goodman

Media relations officer , Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation