Education Lab

Fresno State’s new student union will be named after these billionaire farmers

Fresno State’s new student union will be named after the owners of The Wonderful Company after Lynda and Stewart Resnick pledged $10 million for the project – the largest amount ever given to a student-life initiative at the university.

The California State University Board of Trustees voted Tuesday afternoon to approve the name after students last year voted to approve the new project, which will include a $149 fee hike for students.

The new student union is expected to be complete by fall 2021 and will include a ballroom, study areas, various meeting rooms for student clubs, offices, a welcome center, student leadership center and veteran’s center. It will be located east of the University Center and south of the Kennel Bookstore in a central quad of campus near the current student union and the Henry Madden Library.The total cost of the project is $60 million.

The current University Student Union is more than 50 years old and was built to accommodate a campus enrollment of about 10,000 students. Fresno State’s student enrollment now is about 25,000, and the current student union saw 1.65 million visitors in the 2018-19 school year, according to university numbers.

“We are deeply grateful for Lynda and Stewart’s bold and impactful investment in Fresno State’s talented and diverse students,” Fresno State President Joseph Castro said in a statement. “Their generous support for public higher education underscores the importance of private philanthropy and universities joining together to elevate our region and beyond.”

The Resnicks’ investment will contribute to the design, construction, operation and maintenance of the facility. The Wonderful Company is a $4.6 billion global enterprise that includes popular brands such as Wonderful Pistachios, Wonderful Halos, POM Wonderful, FIJI Water and JUSTIN Wine.

“Stewart and I have long supported Fresno State’s mission of shaping the Central Valley’s best and brightest young minds, while serving as a significant pipeline of talent for businesses throughout the region,” Lynda Resnick said in a statement. “Our hope is that this beautiful new facility will empower student success well into the future.”

The Resnicks established Wonderful Education in 1994 to increase the number of people earning college degrees in California’s Central Valley. Wonderful Education operates three preschools, two public charter schools, an agriculture college pathway and grant and scholarship programs.

Part of the Resnicks’ donation will be used to create The Wonderful Scholar Center within the new student union. That space will be dedicated to tutoring and counseling for more than 200 Wonderful Scholars attending Fresno State.

The investment helped the university make significant strides in its fundraising goal for the new student union, said Frank Lamas, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management. He encouraged other potential donors to come forward.

This is not the Resnicks’ first investment in Fresno State or other universities.

They previously gave $500,000 to support research at Fresno State’s Jordan Ag Research Center and have supported the College of Science and Mathematics, Lyles College of Engineering, Alumni Association, Bulldog Foundation, Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and the Maddy Institute.

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s new wine and viticulture center is named in part for the Resnicks’ Justin Vineyards and Winery after the company faced outrage from locals when it clear-cut thousands of Paso Robles oak trees.

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Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.