Making a Difference

USD donors Ron and Alexis Fowler


Former USD Board of Trustees Chair Ron Fowler and his wife, Alexis, recently gave $2.6 million to USD to  promote entrepreneurship endeavors through a new partnership between the University of San Diego and his alma mater, the University of St. Thomas. In addition, Ron and Alexis have encouraged USD to establish a matching challenge to double the gift and double its impact.

The majority of the gift, $2.5 million, will support social innovation at USD through what will now be known worldwide as the Fowler Global Social
Innovation Challenge.

“I’ve always been a champion of USD’s Changemaker mission,” says Ron Fowler, who was serving as chair of USD’s Board of Trustees when the university became the first university on the West Coast designated as an Ashoka Changemaker Campus. “It’s been an honor to witness the countless ways USD has made a difference in the community, across the nation and around the world. And now I’m proud to bolster that spirit of social innovation, not just at USD, but also at my own alma mater.”

The Social Innovation Challenge was established in 2011. It was renamed the Global Social Innovation Challenge in 2018 and will now bear the Fowler name. This year, the challenge is expected to award more than $50,000 in seed funding to the winning proposals, presented by student teams from 12 countries on six continents. The Fowlers’ gift will also help the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota to establish a similar program in its School of Entrepreneurship.

Patricia Márquez, dean of USD’s Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, says Ron Fowler is a lifelong visionary whose gift will inspire an entire generation of students. She believes it will start a worldwide movement in which students apply their knowledge in innovative ways to solve humanity’s most challenging problems with a vast array of tools, technologies and opportunities.

“This gift means students around the world can roll up their sleeves and build what needs to be built,” Márquez says. “It will expand the movement beyond just USD and the University of St. Thomas, and inspire students to shape a better world.”

The balance of the gift will be used to establish the Fowler Business Concept Challenge at USD, similar to a program already offered at the University of St. Thomas.

In the case of both the Fowler Business Concept Challenge and the Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge, great work at one university is being replicated at another, therefore propelling social innovation on both campuses.

“That’s Ron Fowler’s great vision,” Márquez says. “If one university can do so much, imagine what 20 or 30 or 100 universities from around the world can do.
The Fowlers are making this possible with their generosity.” — Krystn Shrieve

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