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BC Receives Largest Gift in History

A Bakersfield philanthropist has made an unprecedented $14 million gift to the Bakersfield College Foundation, the largest donation ever given to a community college in the United States. The philanthropist, Dr. Norman Levan, previously donated $5.7 million to Bakersfield College - at the time, the largest donation to a California community college on record. When combined, the two gifts increase Dr. Levan's overall donation to Bakersfield College to nearly $20 million—$10 million higher than any gift from an individual on record.

Dr. Levan's gift, announced March 24, 2011, is at least $3.7 million greater than the largest community college donation in American history, which was $10 million to Santa Monica College in 2008 from Eli and Edythe Broad. The next two largest gifts were Dr. Levan's to BC in 2006, and $5 million from Henry Coil, Jr. to Riverside City College in 2010.

Dr. Levan also recently donated $12 million each to St. John's College in Santa Fe, N.M., and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Both schools are his alma maters, but it's his gift to Bakersfield College that will forever be etched in record books.

"On behalf of current and future students and staff of Bakersfield College, I thank Dr. Levan for his incredible investment in our college," said Dr. Greg A. Chamberlain, president of Bakersfield College. "This is history in the making, and a reason to celebrate across our entire community. Dr. Levan's gift will benefit the community for years to come."

Most interestingly, Dr. Levan is not an alumnus of Bakersfield College. His relationship with the college stems from a longtime friendship with a former Bakersfield College president, the late Dr. John Collins.

Dr. Levan sees it as a simple correlation: "Bakersfield College is an excellent school and one of the pearls of the Central Valley. It is deserving of support for that reason. Bakersfield College students leave stronger for their educational and career futures."

Dr. Levan is professor emeritus and chief of the dermatology department at the USC Keck School of Medicine, where he earned his medical degree in 1939. After serving in the U.S. Army Medical Corps during World War II, he began a long and distinguished career in medicine. He established the Hansen's Disease Clinic for leprosy at the Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center in 1962 at the request of state and federal health officials.

Overall, the endowments will:

  • Add $10 million (at current market value) to the Norman Levan Scholarship Endowment
  • Add $2 million to the Norman Levan Center for the Humanities Endowment to continue its work
  • Add $1 million to the Levan Institute for Lifelong Learning Endowment to continue its educational services
  • Create a new scholarship endowment of $665,000 to provide scholarships for students studying Hispanic or Native American cultures
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