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With $30 million gift, ASU public service school gets new name

It is now the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, announces a historic investment on Oct. 1, 2018 at ASU's downtown Phoenix campus.

ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions will be renamed following a philanthropic investment of $30 million, the University announced today during the Community Solutions Festival on the downtown Phoenix campus.

As of Monday, the college is now the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, named for Phoenix couple Cindy and Mike Watts. Their $30 million donation is one of the largest ever gifts the University has ever received. 

This investment, targeted at first-generation college students, will fund scholarships and professorships as well as allow flexible tuition funding for study abroad programs and internships.

“The University is measured by who we include, how we succeed and how we advance communities that we live in ,” ASU President Michael Crow said. "The way a democratic institution advances successfully is when it is deeply embedded in the community in every way possible."

In this case, that imperative means an investment not only in the University but in the west Phoenix community of Maryvale as well.

Mike and Cindy Watts grew up in Maryvale, which is now both one of Phoenix’s youngest and poorest neighborhoods. 

The funding will go to the Maryvale Revitalization Project and One Square Mile Initiative, in which the college will work with local residents to identify issues in Maryvale — whether that means a lack of civic engagement or poor health outcomes — and help catalyze change in a one-square-mile area of the neighborhood.

The programs will also support the arts, sports and education.

“It's not about our name up there, it is about inspiring other people to feel proud of the direction they are headed in their lives and supported,” Mike Watts said. “Part of the initiative that we hope to work with the college on is the development of that, a belief system, not just in themselves but in the opportunities that exist in the U.S. and in Maryvale.”

The Watts College has the highest proportion of first-generation students at ASU, said Dean Jonathan Koppell. 

“This investment will help us prepare them to pursue careers of public service, making a difference in their communities by having access to quality higher education,” Koppell said.

Founders of Sunstate Equipment Co., the Watts are cementing their legacy with ASU with this donation. They’ve been supporters since 2002, and are lifetime members of the ASU President’s Club.

The couple has also given to a YMCA in Maryvale and several other programs at ASU. 

The University has three times received gifts greater than this — all naming donations of $50 million for the W.P. Carey School of Business, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, respectively. 

“Because of this investment, we are in a position to fundamentally show what we can do as a university and the success of our students,” Koppell said.

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