The Santa Monica College (SMC) Foundation, which raises funds for the college and provides fund management, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year by bringing in record amounts in private donations.

“We have nothing but good news,” said JoAnn Ortiz, executive director of the foundation.

“The assets of the foundation exceeded $13 million last year, which was a record in the 50-year history of the foundation.”

The foundation has two purposes at the college — raising private funds and fund management.

Under management is $13 million in funds, and the foundation received, processed, acknowledged, deposited, invested, or dispersed more than $2.8 million last year.

Most of the funds the foundation receives are restricted to a particular program.

The foundation received 5,300 gifts last year and wrote more than 5,000 checks to specific programs, with scholarships being the largest program to receive donations.

Endowed scholarships are the largest portion of the foundation’s investment and $516,000 in new money for scholarships was received last year.

“There are a lot of incredible people on campus who do a wonderful job of fundraising,” Ortiz said. “So many program people [college directors and staff] are involved in generating the gifts that come to us.

“We are just the conduit for it. The numbers are great because the college staff is great.”

Foundation officials still have the big task of raising private funds for some programs that do not receive enough funding.

Over the years, the foundation has taken direct control of raising funds for the Chairs of Excellence, Dale Ride Internship Program, Sports Hall of Fame, and matching grants to professors and some student groups.

These funds are raised annually through the President’s Circle, a foundation support group of donors that contribute a minimum of $1,000 yearly in unrestricted funds.

Donations that are unrestricted go to underfunded programs and new scholarship programs.

Five years ago, when the President’s Circle was established, the foundation raised $20,000 in unrestricted funds.

Last year, the foundation raised more than $235,000 through the President’s Circle, Ortiz said.

“We did so well that [California Community Colleges] Chancellor [Marshall “Mark”] Drummond singled us out in his State of the State address this year,” Ortiz said. “He said we were one of the outstanding foundations in California.”

In honor of the foundation’s 50th anniversary, foundation officials had hoped to bring in 50 new donors this year to the President’s Circle.

The foundation reached its goal last month and now has more than 55 new donors.

“The rising tide lifts all ships,” Ortiz said. “As we bring in money, it generates enthusiasm on campus.”

Chairs of Excellence are $100,000 endowed funds and were awarded to six professors at the college’s June graduation ceremonies.

Holding those chairs currently are:

n Jamey Anderson, the Northrop Grumman/Elkin Chair of Excellence in Physical Sciences;

n Ida Danzey, the Saint John’s Health Center Chair of Excellence in Nursing;

n Gary Fouts, the John F. Drescher Chair of Excellence in Earth Sciences;

n James Martin, the Ilona Jo Katz Chair of Excellence in Music;

n Walter Sakai, the Avaya Incorporated & Anixter Incorporated Chair of Excellence in Life Sciences; and

n Marian Winsryg, the Sam Francis/Martin Sosin Chair of Excellence in Art.

A new Heavensent Foundation Chair of Excellence in Performing Arts will be announced at graduation this year in June.

The Dale Ride Internship Program allows students to spend eight weeks in Washington, D.C. working in legislative offices.

Students who qualify for the program but need financial assistance receive aid from the Santa Monica College Foundation.

The college’s academic departments or individual professors can request up to $5,000 in Margin of Excellence Mini-Grants through the foundation’s President’s Circle.

Last year, $39,000 in unrestricted funds was awarded to departments and professors to purchase green screen entertainment technology, global positioning systems, chemistry lab glassware, underwater digital cameras, conga drum sets, tapes for video libraries, newspaper production software, and solar observation equipment.

“It’s rare for a community college to have a foundation such as the one we have,” said Santa Monica College president Chui Tsang. “We are only a handful of community colleges in California to have a foundation that can generate robust gift giving.”

A 1956-themed prom will be held Friday, May 5th, to honor President’s Circle donors.

Information, Santa Monica College Foundation,