Stu and Jan Bartleson's Lasting Legacy
Photo taken in 2015 of President Jeffrey D. Armstrong, Jan Bartleson, Stu Bartleson and Dean Andy Thulin at the signing ceremony at Bartleson Ranch.
In 2015, a Central Coast couple gave one of the largest private land gifts in Cal Poly’s history. Stu and Jan Bartleson, who had been developing land for housing and commercial real estate in the local area for decades, committed their 450-acre avocado and lemon ranch in southern San Luis Obispo County to Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences that summer. The Bartlesons’ gift was valued at $11.3 million and expanded the university’s agricultural land holdings to more than 10,000 acres. Cal Poly holds 6,000 acres adjacent to the San Luis Obispo campus, as well as the 3,200-acre Swanton Pacific Ranch and 600-acre Valencia property in Santa Cruz County.
The new property added a combined 235 acres to Cal Poly’s previous 11 acres of lemon trees and 15 acres of avocado trees. College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Dean Andy Thulin noted that the working ranch will provide ample Learn by Doing opportunities for future generations of students.
It’s very important to him that it stay the way it is, and the right place to donate it to is Cal Poly."
~Jan Bartleson, about her late husband, Stu Bartleson
“The Bartlesons’ generosity will enable longer-term research projects, provide numerous internship opportunities for students, and facilitate income-producing industry partnerships for the college,” said Thulin.
“It’s exciting to think about this being kept as ag land and carrying our name in perpetuity,” Stu Bartleson said at the time. “I’m also excited to think that the ranch will help prepare today’s students to become tomorrow’s ag industry leaders.” Sadly, Stu passed away in 2016 at the age of 94.
The Bartlesons were known for their philanthropic efforts throughout the Central Coast, supporting youth, senior citizen and animal welfare causes, among others. The couple was honored in 2011 for their work by Celebrate Philanthropy, a local nonprofit organization.
“It just makes Stu feel so good that the avocados and lemons will be able to continue on,” Jan Bartleson said at the time. “It’s very important to him that it stay the way it is, and the right place to donate it to is Cal Poly.”