Alma and Cliff Pearson Endowed Scholarship
With the advent of business titans like Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie, the noun philanthropy soon became a household word that came to imply the giving of large monetary gifts to civic causes. Translated from the Latin, the word philanthropy means “love of mankind.” Thus, a philanthropist is one who shares personal wealth for the benefit of mankind.
For California Lutheran University, no one person symbolizes the meaning of the word philanthropist more than Alma Pearson. With Cliff, her husband of 48 years, Alma truly shared not only her wealth but her love of education.
Alma grew up in the West, helping her mother run a series of successful businesses. Her dream of becoming a businesswoman was an unusual ambition in the early 20th century. But by age30 Alma was an independent businesswoman overseeing a number of real estate investments.
As strong Lutherans who lived in Santa Barbara, Alma and Cliff wanted to support the Lutheran institution that was nearby, and that was CLU. They made their first gift to CLU in 1982 in support of the new library, which eventually bore the Pearson name. After providing major support for the library and its future maintenance, Alma and Cliff decided they would like to change the direction of their giving in order to affect the lives of students more directly. That was when they set themselves a new goal, to create an endowed scholarship bearing their names. Once they had made that decision they put their minds to the task and, through their generous stewardship, the scholarship fund soon far exceeded the minimum level for an endowment.
Alma Pearson truly understood the essence of both philanthropy and Christian stewardship. She believed that God had blessed her with wealth so that she might share it with others in His creation. She drew great joy from what she saw as the privilege of giving. And, since she and Cliff had not had children of their own, they decided they would simply adopt an entire university as their family. That sentiment was returned by the campus in 2004 when CLU awarded Alma an honorary degree. Cliff died in 1999, Alma, in 2008. Even after they had both passed away, their generosity toward CLU continued through the careful planning they had done for their estate.
Because of their strong belief in CLU’s future, they designed the Alma and Cliff Pearson Endowed Scholarship for either undergraduate or graduate students majoring in business. Countless students have been and will continue to be the recipients of their generous philanthropy.