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Historic Gift for Cal Poly Golf

By Diego Abeloos

Cal Poly Golf coaches Scott Cartwright and Sophie Aagaard see a promising future ahead for their program — and with good reason.

On Dec. 1, Cal Poly announced that retired Raytheon Co. Chairman and CEO Bill Swanson and his wife, Cheryl, donated more than $10 million to the university’s golf program. The gift is the largest ever given to Cal Poly Athletics, and is also considered one of the biggest donations to any U.S. collegiate golf program.

“The lessons I learned as a student-athlete at Cal Poly have served me well in my life and career at Raytheon,” said Swanson, a class of 1973 engineering graduate who played for the Cal Poly Golf team. “Golf taught me to work hard, set my priorities and always try to improve. It’s a game based on personal integrity. Cheryl and I want to provide those same valuable experiences to future students.”

The gift will establish the Swanson Cal Poly Golf Program. The operating endowment will fund future scholarships prioritized to first-generation and engineering student-athletes in the golf program. Swanson was a first-generation engineering student-athlete at Cal Poly.

Cartwright, currently in his 15th season as director and men’s head coach of Cal Poly Golf, noted that the couple’s generosity is a game-changer for the program in other ways as well. “We now have the budget to play a full schedule, a better schedule and are close to offering the full complement of scholarships,” he said, adding that the gift allows the program to cast a wider net to attract talented student-athletes to Cal Poly.

Women’s head coach Aagaard added that the gift will help the program reach a new level of prominence and competitiveness among collegiate golf programs.

“It means a world of difference,” said Aagaard, a former professional golfer who is in her first year as head coach. “Being able to go head-to-head with other programs to offer scholarships means we’ll be able to attract more talent to Cal Poly. The support is amazing. We’re looking forward to bigger and better things.”

Mustang golfer Cole Nygren, who has received scholarship funds provided by the Swansons, said he’s not surprised by their generosity.

“Bill is one of the most interesting and humble men that I know,” Nygren said of Swanson, who chairs the Cal Poly Foundation board. “There’s so much more behind the Swanson Scholarship than just an athletic scholarship. It’s hard to describe, but once you get to know Bill and Cheryl, you begin to understand just how special the gift really is. They are two of the most caring and generous people that I know.”

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