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ASU’s Center for Violence Prevention receives $3 million

December 04, 2006

Arizona State University officials have announced the largest single private investment in the 22-year history of its West campus, a $3 million gift from the Mike and Cindy Watts family that will help fund the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety in the university’s College of Human Services.

“This gift is a substantial investment in the College’s mission to create academic excellence and to make an impact within the local community,” said John Hepburn, dean of the College of Human Services.  “It will enable the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety to engage the local community in transformative programs of use-inspired research, technical assistance, and public education.”

Hepburn noted that the Watts family endowment of the directorship of the Center includes a request by the family that mirrors their commitment to their native Maryvale community.

“Cindy and Mike have asked that an initial project of the Center be to examine the scope and nature of crime and violence in Maryvale,” reported Hepburn. “That effort will bring together a large number of stakeholders from within Maryvale in a collaborative effort to identify specific outcomes and to effect meaningful changes that will address the problem. We will work closely with those who share our goal to identify needs, leverage resources, and facilitate changes that will lessen crime and violence in Maryvale.”

West campus provost Mark Searle said the gift will have a significant and lasting impact on the Center and the greater Phoenix area.

“The West campus has long been recognized for its community engagement and its commitment to building partnerships that provide true and measurable benefits to all who live here,” said Searle.  “The Watts Family’s generous gift to endow the directorship in the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety contributes to the advancement of our commitment and will allow us to continue to expand our collaborative services in an effort to reduce crime and violence in our neighborhoods.”

At the announcement, the Watts shared how ASU president Michael Crow’s vision for a “New American University served as a magnet for their expanded support and also their personal beliefs played an important role in their gift to ASU.

“We’re proud to support ASU because we believe in everything Dr. Crow and his team are doing to provide a first-class education while making an impact on our community and the world through research and service,” said Mike, who founded and has built Sunstate Equipment Company into one of the largest independent equipment leasing companies in the U.S.

“Violence is such a limiting factor in life,” said Cindy, a member of the ASU Foundation’s Women & Philanthropy program.  “It creates fear in individuals, families and entire communities, which in turn destroys opportunities.  When people come together and when everyone involved is of great heart, tremendous change can be influenced.

“If our gift can reduce or eliminate that violence, especially by getting at its root causes, we will have achieved our goal for giving.”

The Center, under the leadership of Charles Katz, an associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, not only provides research but also offers recommendations and analysis to make a difference in the community. Some of the projects tackled by the Center include examining sex offender clusters; gathering data on drug use, guns and gangs; and evaluating the success of special courts in Arizona.