Donor redirects $4.8M for immediate impact

Pandemic shifts focus to students, entrepreneurship

Aware of the financial pressure on students and their families during this period of unprecedented economic uncertainty, Steven Dorfman developed the new agreement with Cal Lutheran President Lori E. Varlotta. 

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Jan. 20, 2021) In response to the economic challenges spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, former Hughes executive Steven Dorfman has decided to redirect $4.8 million donated to the California Lutheran University School of Management in order to immediately support students and entrepreneurship.

Dorfman originally pledged the money for a School of Management building. Aware of the financial pressure on students and their families during this period of unprecedented economic uncertainty, he developed the new agreement with Cal Lutheran President Lori E. Varlotta. 

The Thousand Oaks resident directed that $1.2 million be used to award renewable scholarships covering 100% or 75% of tuition to the top percentile of admitted students in the School of Management interested in entrepreneurship and innovation. 

The remaining $3.6 million will provide grants to promising startups involving Cal Lutheran students or alumni, support activities such as the New Venture Competition and startup weekends, and create an endowed professor of practice in entrepreneurship, a popular area of study in the School of Management. Faculty member Mike Panesis, director of what is being renamed the Steven Dorfman Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, will be the first to hold the position.

“As a lifelong businessman, it is clear to me that the timing for new academic brick-and-mortar projects is challenging given the uncertainties that universities are facing right now,” Dorfman said. “Repurposing a capital gift in a way that supports the School of Management and its students is consistent with my original goal. Plus, it is quite satisfying to be able to make a campuswide impact and directly assist students given the current hardships that the pandemic has created.”

Varlotta described Dorfman as the prototype for 21st century donors: “Steve’s thoughtful decision reflects the kind of commitment and flexibility that universities are hoping their donors will exude. It has been a pleasure to work with Steve during my first 100 days as president at Cal Lutheran to reconfigure a gift of this size in ways that meet donor expectations and benefit the School of Management and its students. Everyone is a winner here, and that feels really good.”

Dorfman served as an executive of Hughes Space and Communications Co., Hughes Telecommunications and Space, and Hughes Communications. His responsibilities ranged from directing the landing of five probes on Venus to helping create DirecTV. Dorfman, who earned degrees from the University of Florida and the University of Southern California, has served on the boards of Hughes, Raytheon and other companies. He has been a member of advisory committees to NASA, the Air Force, the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Transportation. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and received NASA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Public Service Award. After retiring in 1999, he taught as a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dorfman has been a member of Cal Lutheran’s School of Management Advisory Council for several years.

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