Gifting The Legacy Of Learning

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A life of legacy: Steven Dorfman (above) said his favorite place in the world is Australia, having traveled to the continent more than 15 times in his life. Dorfman said he would like the new management building to have a portrait of his wife and himself (below) once construction is complete. Photo provided by Steven Dorfman

A life of legacy: Steven Dorfman (above) said his favorite place in the world is Australia, having traveled to the continent more than 15 times in his life. Dorfman said he would like the new management building to have a portrait of his wife and himself (below) once construction is complete.
Photo provided by Steven Dorfman

Steven Dorfman walks up to four miles per day and travels regularly. Earlier this year, he traveled around the world in 30 days with The New York Times. But one of the biggest passions the grandfather of five holds dear is improving education for future generations.

Dorfman’s philanthropic interest in engineering and management led him to make a $6 million donation to California Lutheran University for a new School of Management building. It is the largest single gift the university has ever received.

After moving to University Village eight years ago, a retirement community across the street from campus, Dorfman began looking to see what he could do for the local community.

My wife had passed away in June of last year and I was looking for causes that might be interesting and that might also be a part of my legacy,” Dorfman said. “Aside from my children and grandchildren, which is an important legacy, I decided I could help out by being the lead donor in the building. This building is a key element to the school.”

Dorfman said after being introduced to Cal Lutheran, he began looking at the different interdisciplinary schools the university has to offer, such as the graduate schools of education, psychology and management.

Dorfman then approached School of Management Dean Gerhard Apfelthaler about investing and was asked to be part of the advisory committee for the project.

Currently, Dorfman is also on the Board of Governors for the Boys and Girls Club in Thousand Oaks.

He was a regular, a very active participant [in the planning process] and we meet three to four times a year,” Apfelthaler said. “He’s always the one who comes prepared beyond the materials that we give him. You can see that he’s the top executive.”

A life of legacy: Steven Dorfman (above) said his favorite place in the world is Australia, having traveled to the continent more than 15 times in his life. Dorfman said he would like the new management building to have a portrait of his wife and himself (below) once construction is complete. Photo provided by Steven Dorfman

A life of legacy: Steven Dorfman (above) said his favorite place in the world is Australia, having traveled to the continent more than 15 times in his life. Dorfman said he would like the new management building to have a portrait of his wife and himself (below) once construction is complete.
Photo provided by Steven Dorfman

Apfelthaler said Dorfman also makes it a point to stop by his office weekly for a cup of coffee.

Before retiring, Dorfman worked at Hughes Electronics for 40 years. He started as a member of the staff and made his way up to vice chairman.

Dorfman said he was fortunate enough to put money away in an individual retirement account, which is where he said the majority of the donation came from. Hughes Electronics agreed to match 6 percent of the investment.

Dorfman said before he made his final decision to donate the funds, he had a few conditions. The main condition was the building itself must be “aesthetically pleasing.”

The two-story building will be called the Steven D. Dorfman Center and will replace Nygreen Hall. The grassy hill that faces Memorial Parkway will be converted into dramatic stairs that lead up to an all-glass lobby.

“[The new building is] an important function for the School of Management. They needed something to continue their growth and serve the community. I got interested in the long-term future of the school of management because they have become very good to the university,” Dorfman said.

The second condition Dorfman insisted on was that the entire project be completed by Sept. 26, 2021, the day he turns 86 years old. Dorfman said he wants to have the ability to walk across the street to see the improvements.

Senior Director of Development for Graduate Schools and Seminary Programs Stacy Swanson said Dorfman also wants to have a space in the main lobby to hang a portrait of himself and his wife with a paragraph about who they are. 

Swanson said after speaking with Dorfman, she saw he is most excited to see what potential the building gives the university.

“He has a real desire to make a difference and it happened. He doesn’t just want to leave us money when he’s gone—he wants to be a part of it,” Swanson said. “He wants to see the students benefit from it. He wants to see the dean and the faculty have a home.”

An important next step for the project is to continue raising funds for the building.

Apfelthaler said he is most looking forward to “seeing more students on a daily basis” and “having more of an opportunity to interact [with them].”

Apfelthaler said there are nearly 1,500 students in the School of Management.

“I can’t wait to see construction start. I’ll be there September 26, 2021—Just in time for classes,” Dorfman said.

Rose Riehl
Reporter