Gift From an SDSU Icon

Henry Janssen

A professor widely revered for dedicating his heart and mind to SDSU has also dedicated a large portion of his estate to the Honors College at San Diego State.

The planned gift from Professor Emeritus Henry Janssen will eventually add $1 million to the Honors College endowment, helping to transform the existing Honors Program into a college with increased enrollment and programs that benefit the entire university community.

"I owe SDSU more for the life I've had than I can ever repay," Janssen said of his motivation for the gift.

Janssen is one of hundreds of SDSU faculty and staff donors to The Campaign for SDSU, which will raise $500 million to support the university's development as a leading public research university.

The former political science professor has been a strong proponent of the University Honors Program and a longtime adviser for the Honors Council, an organization comprised of students accepted into five of SDSU's six campuswide, multidisciplinary honor societies (Phi Eta Sigma, Golden Key, Phi Kappa Phi, Mortar Board, Phi Beta Kappa and Scholars Without Borders).

Honors Council president Ariel Rawson said Janssen' s impact on students is immeasurable.

"He has taught us so much about the value of the public good and seeking to understand how everything is interconnected. I aspire to be able to contribute to society even a fraction of what Dr. Janssen has [contributed] through the lives of the people he's touched."

An Honors Council room in Love Library is named for Janssen, as is the "last lecture" series, an event sponsored by the council at which one of SDSU's most distinguished faculty members is invited to speak.

For 60 years, students have described Janssen as one of the most popular, yet demanding, professors at San Diego State. His earliest students gave him "a reputation" that prompted the head of Arts and Sciences to appoint the young professor to the honors faculty.

From that position, Janssen has created a legacy of excellence that spans the decades from 1955 to the present.

"Henry has influenced generations of students, broadening their vision, their understanding, and, ultimately, their contributions to our region and our nation." said SDSU President Elliot Hirshman. "His extraordinarily generous gift will allow our university to carry on the traditions of student achievement and student success Henry has helped establish."

Janssen's commitment to the honors program is rooted in its potential to advance the work of SDSU and create a network of high achieving alumni with strong ties to the university.

"One of the things of which I am most proud," he said, "is my ability to bring together [past and present] students. It is an astonishing network of relationships that is not Henry-dependent…and they will continue to stay connected after I slip this mortal coil, to each other as friends, but also to the SDSU bond that ties them together in my absence."

Janssen's gift will increase scholarships for honors students, expand student participation on the honors advisory board and support faculty dedicated to teaching honors courses—all significant steps in the transformation of the University Honors Program into the University Honors College.

Geoff Chase is dean of the Division of Undergraduate Studies, where the honors program is housed. He called Janssen's gift "the lynchpin in making the honors experience a true campus-wide opportunity."

"Henry Janssen's gift is truly transformational," Chase continued. "With it, we will be able to build on the significant success of the Honors Program and create a University Honors College to promote high academic achievement for diverse students throughout the university. It will provide more support, more opportunities for engaged learning, and help us continue to build a culture dedicated to student success."