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$16.4 million donation sets CSULB record

A record-breaking donation to the music department will provide millions in student scholarships.

Andy Franks

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Cal State Long Beach officials announced Friday a $16.4 million gift from the Bob Cole Trust – the single largest donation in CSULB history – at an inaugural ceremony held in the Daniel Recital Hall Friday.

The money will go toward student musician scholarships, and the university will propose to the CSU Board of Trustees meeting this week the renaming the department of music to the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music.

Cole, who died in 2004, was a Long Beach real estate investor for more than 35 years, and recreational pianist. As a performer for friends and family, Cole’s lifelong passion for music led his widow Regena Cole to make the donation in his memory, saying she hopes to see the conservatory produce some “wonderful students.”

Speakers for the event included CSULB President F. King Alexander, College of the Arts Dean Donald Para, and music department Chairman John Carnahan, who outlined plans for the conservatory and thanked the Coles for their contribution.

“Our faculty will take this department and now conservatory of music to where it has never gone before,” Alexander said. “We are going to aggressively pursue an agenda that will make us the best conservatory in the United States.”

Carnahan, who has served at the music department’s chairman for the past eight years, was named as the conservatory’s first director.

“It’s a new beginning for the everyone here in the music department,” Carnahan said. “[New students] will never be held back from pursuing their dreams because they can’t afford to pay for their education. This is very significant.”

The Cal State Long Beach College of the Arts is the largest and most comprehensive publicly funded school for the arts in the West, with more than 4,200 undergraduate and graduate majors. The donation will put an increased emphasis on targeted recruitment and identifying musically talented but not college-focused students as potential program candidates for its department of music.

Full tuition and four-year scholarships will be available.

Because of the donation’s size, preparation between the university and the Bob Cole Trust was kept under wraps for nearly 10 years. Para, who led the donation’s planning, said the college has only recently been able to notify the department of the gift.

“Now that we’ve been able to announce the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, the administration, myself and the faculty are going to start working on plans for a great future for the conservatory,” Para said.

Former Long Beach City Councilman Frank Colonna, a CSULB alumnus and a longtime friend of the Cole family, was also there to share his memories of Bob and Regena Cole, and spoke of Bob’s “love affair with playing piano.” He called the donation an honor and a legacy for both the city of Long Beach and CSULB.

The gift is the largest of its kind in CSULB’s history, and outmatches the university’s second-largest donation by about $10 million, according to Para.

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