Former Cuyamaca College president Dr. Sam Ciccati has gifted $1 million to the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, the largest donation ever received by the East County system, officials announced.
The gift agreement calls for scholarships and assistance to be offered to Cuyamaca College students. Ciccati will fund the donation over 10 years, creating an endowment that will allow Cuyamaca College to receive the money in perpetuity, it was announced at the district’s governing board meeting Tueday night.
“I hope with this gift there will be students who would never get to college who will now get to go,” Ciccati said. “Then they’ll be successful and pass this on to the next generation.”
In recognition of the donation, the performing arts center at Cuyamaca College will be known as the Samuel M. Ciccati Performing Arts Center, and the campus theater will be called the Samuel M. Ciccati Theatre. The formal unveiling of the new name will be held at an event next fall during Cuyamaca College’s 40th anniversary celebration.
District Chancellor Cindy L. Miles noted that Ciccati’s gift will complement the college district’s effort to open the doors to higher education for more students through the Grossmont & Cuyamaca College Promise scholarship, which will offer a free year of college to first-time, full-time students beginning this fall.
“We’re thrilled that Dr. Ciccati is once again showing his commitment to the East County community through this generous gift,” Miles said. “He will be changing the lives of thousands of students and their families.”
Ciccati himself attended community college. The ninth of 12 children born to immigrant parents, he was working at an SDG&E power plant in National City to help support his family when his boss prodded him to enroll in college classes, according to a district statement.
He attended San Diego City College part-time for two years before he transferred to San Diego State University. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SDSU, and later received his doctorate degree from United States International University, the statement read.
Ciccati began teaching, then became a counselor at Grossmont College until he was named a vice president of the college in 1976. In 1984, he was selected as the second president of Cuyamaca College, serving until 1993, the statement continued.
Ciccati had been supporting students at the colleges before his donation. He funded four scholarships for students at Cuyamaca and Grossmont colleges through a fundraising campaign matched by the Bernard Osher Foundation that allows the scholarships to continually be offered each year. Ciccati’s brother, Daniel, who died in 2010, also funded a scholarship, according to the statement.
Ciccati has also endowed four scholarships at the San Diego State University College of Education and one in men’s basketball. He also endowed a scholarship at the Monarch School, a school for homeless children in San Diego, the statement continued.
“My affinity with the community college is strong,” Ciccati said. “I feel strongly about the value of community college.”
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