Campus: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo -- June 05, 2001

Cal Poly College of Engineering Receives $6 Million Gift To Fund Hands-On Learning

Paul R. Bonderson Jr., a 1975 Cal Poly electrical engineering graduate, recently donated $6 million to the College of Engineering, the largest cash gift ever received by the university.

The bulk of the money ($5 million) will be used with matching funds from Cal Poly to build the approximately 20,000-square-foot Bonderson Engineering Project Center, a new, state-of-the-art, multi-disciplinary senior projects building.

The remaining $1 million will provide funding for the Bonderson Advanced Software Design Studio.

"We are extremely grateful for this timely gift that serves to advance our project-centered, hands-on engineering and computer science curriculum," said Peter Y. Lee, dean of the College of Engineering. "Key to this curriculum is the capstone senior project, which today often replicates the same kind of team-based, multi-disciplinary projects that our graduates encounter in industry.

"The Bonderson Project Center will provide large, flexible workspaces equipped with the latest technology and applicable to every major in the college," Lee said. "This gift truly takes us to the next level of leadership and excellence in engineering and computer science education."

Bonderson notes that his own senior project led to his first job.

"I designed and built an electronic clipboard for collecting traffic information, and Trekonix, a small company that distributed traffic signals and manufactured signal controllers, was quite interested," Bonderson said.

"They hired me and bought my design for $1,500. I thought I was rich," he said.

"My goal in giving this gift to Cal Poly is to foster the same kind of creative engineering experience that was so helpful to me. I want students today to have the opportunity to undertake truly cutting-edge projects, and especially multi-disciplinary projects, because that's what industry needs today."

Bonderson is vice president of engineering for Brocade Communications Systems, a leading supplier of open-fabric solutions that provide the intelligent backbone for storage area networks (SANs). A Brocade co-founder, he has more than 25 years of industry experience at Sun Microsystems, Data System Design and Intel.

During his more than nine years with Sun, he held a number of director-level positions developing data storage products, network server products and servers. Bonderson implemented Sun's first Fibre Channel products as director of central technologies, where he was responsible for all corporate mass storage development.

In addition to the $5 million he provided for the Projects Center, Bonderson also gave $1 million for general renovation and upgrading of Cal Poly's computer science laboratories and for development of a wireless, reconfigurable, team-supportive, state-of-the-art software design studio.

"Paul Bonderson provides a wonderful example of an alumnus who has been widely successful and who is motivated to give back to the institution that helped launch his career," says Sigurd Meldal, chair of Cal Poly's Computer Science Department. "The impact of his gift on student learning is inestimable -- it will enable us to offer a curriculum that is truly applicable to the 21st century."

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