These four families, through their generosity, are helping to advance student access at Arizona State University, where first-generation students comprise nearly 40 percent of the student body. With support from them and donors like them, students from all economic backgrounds are empowered to imagine new possibilities.

Chuck and Judy Backus pictured on East Backus Mall, a corridor named after them at the Polytechnic campus. Photo: Sona Srinarayana/ASU

A continued commitment to education and inclusivity: How the Backuses have transformed the Polytechnic campus into a community

In 1996, Chuck and Judy Backus shepherded the expansion of ASU eastward with the opening of what is now known as the ASU Polytechnic campus. …

Philanthropy fuels the great work being done at ASU.

Campaign ASU 2020, a once-in-a-decade fundraising campaign, was meant to unite Arizona State University supporters around the idea that, together, we can improve lives and influence society for the better. And you exceeded all expectations.

You joined more than 353,650 ASU supporters who gave during the campaign, and helped raise $2.3 billion for ASU students, educational initiatives and community partnerships. Because of you, ASU is living up to the promises of its charter.

Here are a few examples of campaign generosity in action:

Donors to Arizona State University make our world better.

Philanthropy fuels ASU’s promise: to define itself by those we include, rather than exclude, and find new and exciting ways to impact society at large.

It is hard to overstate how important you are to Arizona State University’s future. Here are just some of the many ways that your generosity changes the lives of students and the communities we serve.

Scott Schneider’s passion for the planet drives his art. It also inspired him to gift Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability with an endowed scholarship.

Toxic/Nature Studios founder will create educational opportunities for students who share his passion for the environment and creating change in the world.

While research continually shows us how distracting our smartphones are, Scott Schneider has found a way to use his own as a means to observe the world around us. Now he’s urging others to follow his lead and protect a planet on the brink.

Schneider, like the majority of the population, never leaves home in Long Island without his iPhone. But this Arizona State University alumnus is rarely buried in texts, emails or blitzes of social media notifications that can overtake our attention. He’s too busy collecting trash on his daily walks and turning them into art through photography.


ASU President Michael M. Crow is optimistic about the future.

I am optimistic about the future and confident that Arizona State University will lead the way in making higher education more relevant, flexible and accessible to learners of all ages.

A big reason for my optimism is the growing body of engaged supporters who commit financial resources to advance ASU’s mission. In the past decade, 353,650 alumni and ASU supporters around the world contributed to Campaign ASU 2020, a fundraising effort that raised more than $2.3 billion for ASU students, faculty, community programs and research. That’s an extraordinary accomplishment.

Because of generosity to ASU, student accessibility and excellence have never…

ASU supporters’ generosity has powered many breakthroughs and successes, and laid the groundwork for a future full of possibilities.

These entertaining and educational things to do are made possible by donations from ASU supporters.

There’s always a lot going on at Arizona State University, and with donor support through Campaign ASU 2020, much of it is free!

Here are three opportunities — free and open to the ASU community and the public — that have been made possible through philanthropic support.

Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute

Every public school teacher in Arizona can access free training and professional development through ASU Prep Digital’s Arizona Virtual Teacher Institute, designed to help the state’s K–12 teachers deliver quality instruction in online and blended learning environments.

Topics include best practices in online instruction, Web 2.0 tools, setting up a virtual instruction plan…

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack: Any way we can learn each other’s stories, appreciate each other’s values and understand both history and what the future might be, it will come through cultural education and cultural literacy.

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack: ASU vice president for cultural affairs and executive director of ASU Gammage
Colleen Jennings-Roggensack: ASU vice president for cultural affairs and executive director of ASU Gammage

My Story

My father was in the military so we lived from Air Force base to Air Force base, both in and out of this country. Traveling around became part of my DNA.

One of the things my parents believed in was, wherever we were, we had to have an understanding of the community. For instance, we lived in Okinawa, so we went to harvest festivals, we went to various ceremonies, we knew and understood Noh theater. When we were stationed on Long Island, we saw Leonard Bernstein conduct when I was 5. …

Michelle Johnson: The first time I set foot in a theater was when I was hired there. Now I’m passionate about bringing arts and culture to underserved kids and families.

Michelle Johnson: Executive assistant, ASU Gammage
Michelle Johnson: Executive assistant, ASU Gammage

My Story

The first time I stepped into a theater was when I was hired at ASU Gammage. I had just turned 21.

I was born and raised in the military. I lived in many different places before we came here in 1969. My father drove back and forth to Williams Air Force Base five days a week and he worked a part-time job in the neighborhood. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. Going to the theater was just something my family never did.

Why I Give

I always get emotional about why I give to ASU Gammage. I am passionate about our mission of…

Anna Wales: “I want to ask, ‘What am I doing to make this a better place? How am I going to leave it better when I’m gone?’”

Anna Wales: Business relations coordinator, Arizona State University Polytechnic campus
Anna Wales: Business relations coordinator, Arizona State University Polytechnic campus

My Story

I started giving to Arizona State University when I was a single mother working three jobs and raising three children. It was 1997 and I had just started working at the newly opened Polytechnic campus — a small, friendly community where employees looked out for each other and for the well-being of students.

The founding provost of the campus, Charles Backus, modeled generosity and showed me that philanthropy begins with even the smallest of gifts. The first gift I ever gave, I signed up to donate $5 out of every paycheck through payroll deduction. …

Neal Lester: I found that I need to give to something that feeds my spirit and soul.

Neal Lester: Foundation Professor of English, founding director of Project Humanities
Neal Lester: Foundation Professor of English, founding director of Project Humanities

My Story

I am a Georgia native, so I grew up in the Deep South. I am an only child who was raised primarily by my grandmother. My grandmother gave me what I have come to recognize as my first lessons in giving and caring.

My background involves the ways in which the church I grew up in — the Paradise African Methodist Episcopal Church — was also a teacher and a guide not just in the religious faith sense — it was also a social center. It’s where tutoring took place, it’s where education and political galvanizing took place. …

ASU Foundation

ASU Foundation, one of Arizona’s oldest nonprofits, raises and invests private contributions to Arizona State University.

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