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History of ASU Foundation is one for the books

Early ASU Foundation headquarters
February 21, 2013

New limited-edition hardback traces foundation’s 128-year history from farm to philanthropy

What do Castle Hot Springs, a small herd of milk goats and an alligator farm have in common? The answer – and the colorful 128-year history of the ASU Foundation for A New American University – lies within the 203 pages of a just-released book. The hardback, “From Normal School to New American University: A History of the ASU Foundation, 1885-2012” is available for a donation or free online viewing at

Authored by the late Arizona historian Dean Smith, who served as the university’s spokesman for two decades before retiring in 1984, the book begins with a recounting of the state’s “Thieving Thirteenth” legislature and that body’s decision in 1885 to appropriate public funding for the establishment of two institutions of higher learning – one in Tempe and one in Tucson. The final two chapters, penned by ASU Phoenix Downtown campus information specialist Marshall Terrill following Smith’s passing last year, trace the foundation’s support of ASU’s advancement as a New American University focused on academic excellence, broad access for qualified students and meaningful societal impact.

“This is a fascinating look at the history of the ASU Foundation,” says foundation CEO R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr. “To be able to complete Dean Smith’s excellent work and provide new insights to an important part of this great university’s history is both exciting and humbling. This is the story of how we stand on the shoulders of giants – those educational pioneers who paved the way more than a century ago and those who continue the advancement of ASU today.

“This is the history of a philanthropic organization built to ensure the success of ASU as a New American University.”

Included in the century-plus recounting are historical nuggets such as these:

• Castle Hot Springs – the “grand dowager of Arizona Resorts” – as well as goats and an alligator farm are among the unusual gifts offered to the ASU Foundation by enthusiastic advocates of the normal school-turned-state-college-turned-leading university.

• The parent organization of today’s ASU Foundation was created by then-Arizona State College President Grady Gammage in 1947, who created the Agriculture Advisory Council to assist in the development of agriculture facilities at the college.

• Fortune smiled on ASU and the foundation in the mid-1960s when a Midwest retail chain owner and his wife retired to the Valley. Robert and Kax Herberger urged the foundation to start thinking in bigger terms; their first gift to ASU was their solar house in 1965, which was eagerly accepted and quickly sold for $21,000.

• Foundation goals in 1992 were clearly stated: increase endowment funds to a minimum of $75 million by the year 2000. Today, foundation endowments total more than $500 million.

• One of the first to serve as principal of the Arizona Territorial Normal School was pistol-packing Edgar Storment, a visionary who saw the value of philanthropy in the growth of the fledgling institution. Storment launched the school’s first alumni association in 1894, a social club and booster association in its early years, but eventually “an effective engine for raising money and assisting the university in a thousand ways,” according to Smith. Today, the ASU Alumni Association counts more than 300,000 former students among its ranks.

• During the 2012 fiscal year, more than 94,000 donors committed approximately $172 million through the ASU Foundation for A New American University to support ASU scholarships, research, colleges and programs.

The introduction to the book is written by Shangraw, who took the reins of the foundation in 2011. Grady Gammage Jr., an ASU trustee and son of the university’s 10th president, penned the foreword, paying tribute to the “scrappy little teachers college in a scrappy little Arizona town.”

“When the precursor to the ASU Foundation was born in the early 1950s around my parents’ dining table, the citizens they gathered there knew it was important to the future of the university to have community support,” writes the younger Gammage. “I doubt even that group of prescient Phoenicians could have known how Arizona State University would come to be the single most significant institution in the economic life of the Valley of the Sun.”

The book contains more than 200 full-color and historical photographs, many contributed by the Department of Archives and Special Collections for Arizona State University Libraries.

“The story of the ASU Foundation provides important and previously under-documented contexts about the history of ASU through its greatest period of growth,” says Robert Spindler, university archivist and head of the ASU Libraries archives and collections. “This chronicle of hard work and dedication demonstrates how our history of community partnerships enabled our university to amplify its impact and extend its reach to address the real concerns of the community.”

A limited edition of the book, signed by ASU President Michael M. Crow, foundation CEO Shangraw and Gammage Jr., who is also a senior research fellow at the ASU Morrison Institute for Public Policy, is available, as are unsigned copies. More information is available at

Steve Des Georges,
Senior Director | Editorial Services
ASU Foundation for A New American University