Fresno State alumnus leaves $5 million for scholarships

The Fresno BeeAugust 27, 2013 

John W. Long left $5 million to Fresno State, his alma mater, for student scholarships.

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A Fresno State alumnus who led a quiet life in Southern California has left his $5 million estate to the university to help fund scholarships.

John W. Long worked selling men's clothes in Los Angeles, spent 40 years building his wealth in real estate and pledged to leave it to Fresno State upon his death. Long died on Jan. 26. He had no wife or children.

The university announced Long's gift Tuesday afternoon. Campus officials said Long approached them only last year about making the donation.

Once Long's estate is settled by the end of this year, the money will go into three separate endowments to provide full-tuition scholarships for at least 20 students every year.

For undergraduate students, tuition is $3,143.50 per semester.

Long's bequest is among the largest donations to the university in recent years. The largest was $29.5 million from the Jordan family to the Ag One Foundation, given in 2009 in support of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology.

The first class of Miriam Long Scholars -- named after Long's mother, who was also a Fresno State graduate -- will be announced for the 2014-2015 academic year. It is not clear yet how those students will be chosen for the scholarships, the university said.

Long contacted Fresno State in 2012 to make his plans known, but he did not want recognition for his gift and asked to remain anonymous until after his death, said Steve Spriggs, director of planned giving, who met Long twice before his death.

Some donors "wish to impress their neighbors, some want their legacy to last forever, some really do want to be anonymous and some want their kid to know they're the best dad ever," Spriggs said. "But this gentleman really wanted to help and wanted to honor his mother."

Long's mother earned her teaching credential from Fresno State in 1919 when it was then called Fresno State Normal School. She went on to teach elementary school in West Fresno.

Long also attended Fresno State to study business until he enlisted in the Army and served on a medical ship during World War II. After the war he returned to campus and developed a love of retail while working in the Fresno State Kennel Bookstore. He graduated in 1949 with a bachelor's degree in commerce.

Long went on to work his entire career in men's retail both in Fresno and Los Angeles. He lived a private and simple life, Spriggs said, but made his money buying apartment complexes during economic recessions, mostly in the neighborhoods around the University of California at Los Angeles.

"Mr. Long will never know the thousands of students to be touched by his generosity, but his legacy will transform countless lives," Spriggs said. "It gives me goose bumps to think of the pure altruism in his heart."

Largest recent Fresno State donations

$29.5 million in 2009 from the Jordan family to the Ag One Foundation in support of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology

$10 million in 2008 from William Lyles and his family to the Lyles College of Engineering

$10 million in 2006 from the Table Mountain Rancheria to the Henry Madden Library

$6 million in 2008 from an anonymous donor to establish the Beck Endowed Scholarship Fund

$5 million in 2013 from Fresno State alumnus John W. Long to create the Miriam Long Scholars fund

$3.5 million in 2007 from Jan and Bud Richter to create the Richter Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6495, blee@fresnobee.com or @bonhialee on Twitter.

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