Written by The Business Journal Staff
Vice President for University Advancement
Fresno Pacific University
Education: After graduation from Sanger High School, I attended Fresno State, where I earned a B.A. in economics, cum laude. I completed several graduate courses in business administration at DePaul University, and took courses at Trinity (IL) Seminary and Bethel (MN) Seminary. I served for six years in the U.S. Army National Guard and Reserve, having been trained as a CH-47 helicopter repairman and crew chief. I have earned the professional designations of Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Chartered Retirement Plans Specialist (CRPS) and Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF). I continue to maintain my status as a current holder of the CFP designation.
Family: My wife Nancy and I have three adult children — Bryan and Jen Griffith, Kevin and Kristin Griffith and Alisha Books—and eight grandchildren.
WHAT WE DO: Fresno Pacific University (FPU) is a distinctively Christian university serving a student population as rich in its heritage as the farmland soil surrounding the university. Serving the heartland of California, the nation and the world, FPU is called to engage the cultures and serve the cities wherever its graduates are found.
FPU is a community of learners who acknowledge that every person is created in the image of God and therefore possesses high purpose and infinite value. The university welcomes anyone regardless of ethnic or religious identity. In a culture in need of grace, leadership and bold solutions, FPU trains students to be servant-leaders. We are called to invest, develop and empower the greatest asset in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California — its people.
The university attracts a diverse and talented student population of over 4,000 to its five campuses throughout the Valley. These students seek to better their lives and communities: 49 percent are the first in their families to attend college or university, about 67 percent come from families who earn $40,000 per year or less, and about 98 percent of undergraduate students receive financial assistance. While offering robust academic programming in over 100 areas of study, FPU boasts a four-year graduation rate of 53 percent, considerably higher than other programs in the region.
What are some of the main services provided by the FPU Foundation?
The Fresno Pacific University Foundation has been an incredibly valuable resource to the university and its donors for many years. The Foundation provides information, education and resources for those seeking strategies to mitigate taxes and maximize their estate. We aid with estate planning techniques, wealth transfer strategies and tax planning issues related to highly appreciated assets. In this manner we are a valuable partner to our donors while preserving or creating wealth for future generations and for the university endowment.
How does the Foundation help the university and its students?
The Foundation maintains several endowments which exist to perpetually fund various educational initiatives. Additionally, the Foundation maintains several scholarships which will perpetually fund student academic careers.
How do the donations to Fresno Pacific University help the donors in the long run?
By working with the university, the Foundation can offer the expertise of our business school faculty as well as our Center for Peacemaking to owners of family and closely held businesses as they work through their business succession planning processes. The Foundation can offer creative tax-efficient solutions to business owners and professionals who have a need to mitigate capital gains taxes or plan for the transfer of their wealth. The Foundation also manages and administers a number of charitable trusts that continue to pay an income to the donor(s), with the remainder going to the Foundation once the trusts mature.
How has the Foundation’s Real Estate Plan benefitted Fresno Pacific University?
The Foundation has been the recipient of a number or gifts of real estate as well as other assets in addition to cash contributions. Over the years the foundation has purchased and owned several residential properties around the university, expanding the footprint of the university and positioning the university for future growth.
What has the Foundation been doing to reach out to potential donors?
The Foundation is working closely with the University advancement team to cultivate new relationships with professionals and business owners throughout the San Joaquin Valley, all of whom will eventually be faced with business succession planning issues. Together the Foundation and advancement teams have identified over 130 Valley businesses which may benefit from the university’s expertise in the areas of workforce development and training as well as the foundation’s expertise in business continuation planning and estate planning. The university is conducting a survey of those businesses to assess their workforce education and training needs, and then the school of business and Center for Peacemaking will develop training modules to meet those needs. We also will provide resources to assist the business owners with strategies to exit those businesses on their own terms.
What are your roots in the Central Valley?
Born and raised on a grape farm in the Sanger area, I learned the value of hard work and self-reliance at an early age. I was so young when I learned to drive a tractor that it took all my weight to press the clutch down! I attended Sanger High School, participating in sports and working for a local farmer every summer. At that time, I enjoyed fishing in the Sierras and the Kings River, and diving and pheasant hunting here in the Valley. At Fresno State I became a lifelong Bulldog. I am an avid Bulldog football fan to this day.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
My very first job was working a roadside fruit stand in the Sanger area. As a somewhat introverted young man I learned the value of engaging strangers in conversation and earning their trust so that I could serve them. I learned to be quick with math calculations in my head and to properly count change. Over the years I have held several positions in the business world and have attempted to be a lifelong learner. I have learned the value of never giving up because success is reserved for those who have the will to persist beyond the point of discouragement. Integrity is everything; it takes a lifetime to earn it and it can be ruined in one day. Money is a wonderful gift but the greatest things in life can’t be bought or sold; your family, your friends and your faith.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy gardening on my large estate-size property, as well as outdoor activities including hiking, snowshoeing, fishing and camping. My wife and I immensely enjoy spending time with family.