Sept. 8, 2023 — CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) has received the largest gift in the history of the University from the estate of Philippe and Arlette Larraburu, two very early supporters of Ventura County’s only four-year public University.

CSUCI is the sole beneficiary of the Larraburu estate, a bequest the couple established in 2001—which ultimately grew into a $30 million gift.

“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,” said CSUCI President Richard Yao. “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.”

Born in Paris, France, Philippe helped his mother survive World War II after losing his father as a teenager. He went on to pursue technical training at prominent trade schools in Paris and earned several degrees in optical engineering. Philippe traveled to Germany for further training and there, he met the woman who would become his wife—Arlette Janet Pioro—who was working as a French translator for the United States Corps of Engineers.

The couple married in Paris in 1955, and they emigrated to the United States in the early 1960s, eventually moving to Ventura County and building their dream home in the Clearpoint neighborhood in Ventura in the early 1970s.

In Southern California, Philippe created specialized lenses for film industry, then opened his own optical lab and created lenses for industrial applications and weather satellites.

Philippe and Arlette established a connection to CSUCI from the very beginning, staying connected as members of the Legacy Society and as annual supporters until Philippe’s death in October of 2021. Arlette passed away in 2014, having been married to Philippe for 57 years. After Arlette’s passing, Philippe moved to Oxnard where he resided until his passing.

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 beneficiary of their estate.

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

There are no restrictions on how the University chooses to use the gift, which is welcome news during these challenging times with budgetary limitations and possible reductions in permanent, long-term funding, Yao said.

“While details regarding how much of the funding will go to which capital projects is not yet solidified, capital projects are my priority for how to make the most impactful, long-term use of the Larraburus’ gift,” Yao said. “We have benefitted tremendously from local community support and funds from the state to support 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.”

Loyal supporters like the Larraburus offer ways to manage the tension that exists between the realities of budget cuts in the immediate future and the need to plan for growth in the longer term, Yao said, adding:

“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.”

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