September 22, 2023
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CSUCI receives single largest donation in school’s history


CSUCI’s Bell Tower. (courtesy photo)

CSU Channel Islands has received the largest single donation in the school’s 22-year history, accepting a $30 million gift from Philippe and Arlette Larraburu’s estate, the university announced on Sept. 8.

CSUCI, the only four-year public college in Ventura County, is the sole beneficiary of the Larraburu estate, an endowment the couple established for the university in 2001, the year the school was founded.

Other large donations the school has received in the past include $15 million from Amazon billionaire MacKenzie Scott, who donated about $2.7 billion to public colleges and other nonprofits in 2021, and $10.5 million also in 2021 from The Martin V. and Martha K. Smith Foundation, which was established by Bud Smith, a philanthropist, entrepreneur and developer who died in 2001 at age 85.

“Words cannot express our tremendous gratitude to the Larraburu family for their trust in our University, backed by a gift that will provide so much for our students,” CSUCI President Richard Yao said in a press release.
“A gift of this stature is a testament to the power of personal philanthropy and to the fact that CSUCI is a smart investment for donors, community partners, and students alike.”

Philippe and Arlette have been involved in CSUCI since its founding in 2001, staying connected as members of the Legacy Society and as annual supporters.

Arlette died in 2014 after having been married to Philippe for 57 years. Philippe moved to Oxnard and resided there until his passing in October of 2021.

According to the Sept. 8 press release, the university did not learn of the plans for the bequest until Arlette’s passing, when Philippe donated a spectrometer and other equipment to the University’s Physics program.

It was only then that he shared the couple’s decision to name CSUCI as the beneficiary of their estate.

“We are profoundly grateful for the Larraburus’ bequest,” CSUCI Vice President for University Advancement Richard LeRoy said in a press release. 

“We also appreciate the Larraburus’ faith in higher education, and their belief that a strong public university can create priceless returns for its graduates, their families, employers and in fact, the entire region.”

Yao confirmed that there will be no restrictions on how CSUCI chooses to use the gift, adding that details of how much funding will go to which capital projects have not yet been solidified.

“We have benefitted tremendously from local community support and funds from the state to support the construction of the Early Childhood Care & Education Center (ECC&EC), for example, but a significant funding gap for that project, among others, remains. This gift will allow us to see plans continue for the ECC&EC,” Yao said.

“The Larraburu gift provides us with great support for doing exactly this, allowing us to invest in capital projects and literally build for the future.”

Philippe was born in Paris, France and helped his mother survive through World War II after losing his father as a teenager.

He went on to pursue technical training at top trade schools in Paris and earned several degrees in optical engineering. 

He later traveled to Germany for additional training, and there he met Arlette, who was working as a French translator for the United States Corps of Engineers.

The couple got married in Paris in 1955 and they emigrated to the States in the early 1960s, finding their way to Ventura County in the early 1970s.

For work, Philippe created specialized lenses for the film industry, then opened his own optical lab and created lenses for industrial applications and weather satellites.