Cal Poly Rodeo Program Recieves $1 Million Endowment

Contact: AnnMarie Cornejo
Cal Poly Rodeo Program Receives $1 Million Endowment
Mark and Jessie Milano's donation — the program’s largest ever — will fund student–athlete scholarships
SAN LUIS OBISPO — At this year’s 76th annual Poly Royal Rodeo in April, Mark and Jessie Milano announced they will establish a $1 million endowment to benefit the Cal Poly Rodeo team in perpetuity. The money — the largest donation in the program’s history — will provide scholarships to student athletes for their performance both in and out of the arena.  
The gift will increase the program’s scholarship offerings to $80,000 in 2016-17, up from $16,000 awarded in 2015-16.
“The Milanos' gift has taken our program from offering just a few students some financial assistance to offering several students a significant level of support,” said Rodeo Coach Ben Londo.
Mark Milano, a cattle rancher and retired oil industry executive, said he admires Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy and the rodeo program’s reverence of the Western way of life.
“I feel humbled to even be in the presence of these athletes,” Milano said. “Rodeo life is not all glory — it is a culmination of hard work, dedication, and getting your hands dirty. To take on all of those responsibilities on top of a demanding scholastic program is just incredible.”
Milano said he found his own connection with Western heritage late in life, when what was once a weekend retreat became a way of life.
“We see the Cal Poly Rodeo program preparing students for healthy, productive lives,” Milano said. “We wanted to support that by helping worthy students who might otherwise not be able to attend.”
The Milano Family Rodeo Scholarship will be awarded to Cal Poly rodeo students based on their overall contributions to the program. Leadership, academic performance, athletic contribution, financial need, teamwork and camaraderie will all be considered.
“This program is built on the principals of building better individuals,” Londo said. “Thus, the scholarship program is built to encourage and reward those qualities.”
Macey Cox, a third-year agricultural business major from Arbuckle, Calif., said the rodeo program was a large part of why she chose to attend Cal Poly.
“The entire rodeo team is thankful to the Milano family for their support of our sport,” Cox said. “This will truly benefit future classes. The program just keeps getting better and better; I am pretty excited to see what it will be like in five to 10 years.”
Under Londo’s guidance, the rodeo program has grown from 24 students to 64 students in three years. Londo said the program’s success is built on students’ wholehearted dedication and the funding it receives from supporters such as the Milano family.
“Mark and Jessie are truly amazing people with a genuine passion for helping,” Londo said. “They have made a huge impact on this program and, more importantly, on our students. Their gift will allow us to continue to build on the legacy for which the Cal Poly Rodeo program is known.”
About Cal Poly Rodeo
Cal Poly Rodeo, coached by Ben Londo, is one of the most successful programs in the history of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA). Cal Poly sent six men to the inaugural College National Finals Rodeo in 1949. Since then, Cal Poly Rodeo’s student-athletes have gone on to win six national championships — more than any other school in the NIRA competition — and 44 national titles. The program is open to all Cal Poly students.
About Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences
Cal Poly is a nationally ranked, comprehensive polytechnic university. The university’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is comprised of expert faculty members who take pride in their ability to transform academically motivated students into innovative professionals ready to solve the complex challenges associated with feeding the world in sustainable ways. Students have access to state-of-the-art laboratories, including ranch land, orchards, vineyards and forests, all of which provide the basis for Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing methodology. It is the fifth-largest college of agriculture in the country, with 4,000 undergraduate students.
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