Swanson Center of Effort and Conference Hall
JUSTIN AND J. LOHR CENTER FOR WINE AND VITICULTURE
Bill and Cheryl Swanson, longtime supporters of Cal Poly, donated $1 million to the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Science’s JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture.
The gift will fund the Swanson Center of Effort Conference Hall within the grange building. The 2,728-squarefoot hall will be used as a central gathering place where academia and the community will come together to network, learn and celebrate. Lectures, meetings and events, all with a focus on industry and student enrichment, will be held in the conference hall.
Alumnus Bill Swanson (Industrial Engineering, ’73) and his wife, Cheryl, have long been champions of Cal Poly, philanthropically supporting projects spanning the campus and its programs. The couple recently served as co-chairs for Cal Poly's The Power of Doing: The Campaign for Learn by Doing capital campaign. Bill Swanson, retired Raytheon Co. chairman and CEO, has served on the Cal Poly Foundation Board since 2006 and was elected chair in 2014.
The couple founded the Center of Effort winery in 2008 in the Edna Valley, the heart of San Luis Obispo wine country. The name Center of Effort references a sailing term that is the point on the sail where the forces come together and act as a whole. The concept is a guiding principal of Swanson’s winery and encompasses the overall purpose of Cal Poly’s new conference hall.
“The dedication of Bill and Cheryl to Cal Poly and the community exemplifies their dedication to providing the support needed for future generations of students to succeed,” said Andrew Thulin, dean of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. “Their donation does more than provide the funding necessary to build a long-desired conference hall on campus; they are ensuring our vision of Cal Poly serving as a central hub for the entire wine industry in San Luis Obispo County and beyond to collaborate and train the next generation of winemakers.”
The Swanson’s donation is the largest single donation to the project from the Edna Valley wine region, representing a strong partnership between the university and local wineries who often hire Cal Poly graduates as interns and for full-time employment after graduation. “When we founded Center of Effort, we wanted to create an estate winery that emphasizes sustainability and make wines that reflect our special area,” said Bill Swanson. “Our hope is that we can help future generations of students become outstanding winemakers through Learn by Doing.”
Project is Entirely Donor Funded
The $22 million project to modernize Cal Poly’s wine and viticulture program is solely donor funded. The Center for Wine and Viticulture includes a bonded 5,000-case production, teaching and research winery, as well as classroom and laboratory space providing students with a learning environment similar to what they will experience in the wine industry.
Construction of the JUSTIN and J. LOHR Center for Wine and Viticulture, which includes a 15,600-square-foot winery and a 12,000-square-foot grange hall, is nearing completion, with the winery schedule to be completed in September 2020 and the grange hall in March 2021.
From the Classroom to the Vineyard:
The Intern Experience
Kevin Bargetto (Wine and Viticulture, ’16) was promoted to associate winemaker from cellar master at Edna Valley’s Center of Effort winery in May, overseeing winemaking activities, from picking the fruit to blending and bottling the wine.
He is one of six Cal Poly graduates to head key positions at the winery, including production management, hospitality and accounting. Many of the alumni first interned at the winery during their undergraduate studies. “At the Center of Effort, we have a number of Cal Poly graduates,” said Bill Swanson. “The intern program at Cal Poly is outstanding as it benefits both students and those in the industry. It’s a win-win for both.”
Bargetto, whose family has been in the wine industry since 1933, said that Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy was instrumental in preparing him for success post-graduation. “What I believe Cal Poly excels at is its internship program — driving students out of the classroom and into tasting rooms, vineyards and wineries,” he said. “The experience you gain outside of the classroom is invaluable and makes your time back in school more relevant, as you can apply what you have learned. The blend of theoretical knowledge and real-world experience is crucial in the world of wine.”
Gladis Perez (Wine and Viticulture, ’20) is the production coordinator at the winery, overseeing wine data tracking and compliance, production reporting and laboratory analysis. She interned at the winery in August 2019 and learned a range of tasks from barrel work to lab analysis, where she discovered her current passion for data tracking, logistics and planning. “Whenever I have a question or want to learn something new, anyone at the winery is happy to help,” she said.
At Center of Effort, interns are exposed to all facets of winemaking and have a comprehensive educational experience. “Interns are one of the most important pieces of the harvest puzzle, and simply put, we could not do it without them,” Bargetto said. “We are so fortunate to have Cal Poly so close by, as every year we can assemble a cohesive, like-minded and hardworking crew of students for harvest that are eager to get their hands dirty and learn, the true Cal Poly way.”
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