Seeing the possibilities
Alumnus Lou Miramontes establishes new business scholarship and leads the way for the University’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign
BY SARAH STANEK
Economic affairs have changed for the Bay Area and the world in the four years since Lou Miramontes ’76 was named Cal State East Bay Alumnus of the Year. And he has observed the tumultuous times from a front row seat in his position at the global accounting firm KPMG, where he began working after earning his bachelor’s degree.
It’s easy to focus on the negative, but Miramontes appreciates the cyclical nature of the economy and sees recovery coming. There will always be a need for well prepared graduates in business, he notes, and so his family has established the Louis and Kristi Miramontes Scholarship Fund to support undergraduates majoring in business administration. At least 60 percent of the scholarship awards will be earmarked for those in the accounting option — Miramontes’ own focus.
“More so than ever, students need to be connected to political and economic situations,” he says. “They have to look where the opportunities are and ensure their skills match demand.”
Miramontes and his wife Kristi acknowledge that they benefited from their families’ strong values, with parents supporting their educational ambitions. But as first-generation college students, they were unfamiliar with the university environment and didn’t have the connections other students did.
Kristi Miramontes says she’s seen that changing. “Students now are exposed to so much more,” she says, “but there’s also more competition.”
One thing that will give students an edge as the economy recovers, Lou Miramontes says, is an understanding of the business decisions and actions that led companies to today’s difficulties.
The curriculum at Cal State East Bay will play a big part in that, as will the diverse environment. Lou Miramontes, who serves on KMPG’s diversity advisory board, says having employees from a wide range of backgrounds, including gender and ethnicity, leads companies to “better business solutions.”
For students in the College of Business and Economics, the impact of the Miramontes’ gift will be profound, says Professor Micah Frankel, chair of the accounting department. “Lou and Kristi are not just setting up a scholarship fund, they are leaving a legacy that will change and brighten lives and will continue to encourage and support our students year after year,” he adds.
A December 2009 survey by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation revealed that money is the primary reason students drop out of college, particularly for those trying to balance work and school. For those students, Lou Miramontes says, a scholarship award “could be the difference between continuing and not being able to go on.”
Just as important, it’s a form of recognition. Not only are students rewarded for their work, he explains, “they realize ‘someone cares about this school, and someone here cares about me.’”
It’s also a way to acknowledge CSUEB’s strong business programs. Many other regional business schools are larger, but with limited undergraduate options and MBA programs that don’t offer specialization.
Modest income families, like the ones the Miramontes grew up in, “need a state university in their backyard” says Kristi Miramontes. This gift is their contribution to keeping that option open, she says.
It also marks the first major private gift to CSUEB’s University of Possibilities campaign. In Fall 2009, Lou Miramontes was named co-chair of the president’s campaign steering committee, which will help spread the word about the University’s fundraising priorities and strategic direction for the coming years.
With so many other alumni who got their start at Cal State East Bay, Lou Miramontes says he hopes his family’s scholarship will be the first of many. “As more graduates move up the ladders in their respective fields, they’ll be inspired to do the same.”