Campus: CSU, San Bernardino -- December 10, 1999

Rancho Mirage Resident Florence Rigdon Pledges $1 Million For Coachella Valley Campus

Florence Rigdon of Rancho Mirage has pledged a $1 million gift toward Cal State, San Bernardino's first permanent building of its Coachella Valley Campus (CVC). Ground-breaking for the facility at Cook Street and Frank Sinatra Drive in Palm Desert will take place in April, 2000, according to CVC Dean Peter Wilson.

Mrs. Rigdon is a long-time donor to CVC and other causes in the area. "I see this as a tremendous opportunity for the children of our community, "she said of the effort to establish the first permanent, four-year university in the area. "They will be the leaders and officials that we'll depend on, and they need a good education."

The "mystery benefactor" alluded to in a Desert Sun news story last week has lived here since 1972, moving from the San Francisco Bay area. "I was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, and I never liked living in a cold climate," she said recently. "I decided early in my life that every time I moved it would be south."

She has worked as a volunteer with the Assistance League and given to Desert Hospital and the Eisenhower Medical Center. She's especially proud of an Assistance League program that gave school uniforms and clothes to 1,200 needy children this year.

While living in San Francisco during World War II, she opened a custom dress shop in Lake Tahoe during the summers, catering to many show business personalities who appeared in the local hotels. She would stand in the wings offstage to make quick alterations to stars like Lena Horns as they made costume changes. "Some nights I would go home at 4 a.m., waving to the baker across the street as he came in to start his day," she said of her 13 years in Lake Tahoe.

Mrs. Rigdon is also an accomplished artist, having taught painting for many years in the Bay Area. She has entered three competitions in the Coachella Valley and won "best of show" in each one. Her Thunderbird home is lined with many of her watercolors, acrylics and paintings in other media.

"I used to give gifts anonymously," she said with a smile, "until my financial advisor told me, 'That's no fun! You'd enjoy it more if you got the credit!' And you know, he was right." She added that, after a spell of illness, the satisfaction of giving this gift "has given me something to live for. I'm hoping I'll be well enough to paint again soon."

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