When Matt and Sheri Fay (Electronic Engineering, '87 and Recreation Administration, '87, respectively) were students at Cal Poly during the 1980s, they had no idea how much their time as Mustangs would shape their lives. Today, they are proud alumni, proud parents and proud donors to the university.
"I started out in Sequoia dorm, had an incredible first year, and met lifelong friends," said Matt, a native of Ojai, California. "Many of my best friends today are from my days at Cal Poly."
Sheri, who is originally from Moraga in the Bay Area, added, "I’m a year younger than Matt, and I lived in the Yosemite dorms with one of my best friends from home. We joined Alpha Phi together and met a lot of great friends. I’m still very close with my girlfriends from Cal Poly and communicate with a number of them almost weekly."
While they knew each other in college and were part of the same circle of friends, the two didn't start dating until later, eventually getting married eight years after graduation. They live in Santa Barbara, but have never lost their love for Cal Poly or San Luis Obispo.
"When I first came to town for a visit in junior high, I said 'this is it,'" Sheri said. "I knew that this was the school that I wanted to go to. It has sunshine, the mountains, the ocean and a great college town. It was just that feeling -- I knew instantly that this was where I wanted to go, and thankfully, years later, I got in."
"There's something about San Luis that draws a specific type of person to this fairly rural environment," Matt added. "The student body is almost universally down to earth. I think it’s the mix of students from Southern California, Northern California, the Central Valley, and now increasingly other states. The students are unassuming, willing to work, and excited to learn and experience new things. It's a special recipe that works well.”
Matt credits his studies in electrical engineering for helping to jump start his career. "I couldn’t have landed my first job at GE in technical sales had I not had an engineering background. And that experience launched me into a career that’s really unrelated to engineering," he said.
Today, Matt describes himself as a serial entrepreneur. After working at GE for three years doing sales around the country, he went on to earn his MBA with an emphasis on entrepreneurial finance from UCLA. He ran a series of companies for 20 years and has spent most of the last decade doing corporate development consulting with CEOs to help them grow their companies and private equity investing. But it was Cal Poly's engineering curriculum that taught him how to take a problem and dissect it to come up with a solution, a skill that he still uses all the time.
Matt and Sheri are also the parents of two current Mustangs: Ryan, who is studying software engineering and is expected to graduate this year, and Nathan, who is a business major with plans to graduate in ’22.
The parents couldn't be more excited for their sons. "Both boys are living the college dream," Matt said. "They have great friends and professors, they are learning a lot, and both are having an amazing experience like we did."
As proud alumni and proud parents, they felt it was natural for them to give back to their alma mater. "After I graduated, I got my teaching credential and became an elementary school teacher," Sheri said. "So education has always been important to us. With that being said, of course we wanted to give back to Cal Poly. It’s an outstanding school, and it keeps getting better --and that's really exciting to see."
“We are at the point in our lives that we can afford to give back,” Matt added, “and it’s something that we do happily. We’ve recently given to the Orfalea College of Business, principally because that is where Nate is studying. I’m also on the college Dean’s Advisory Council, and the focus there is in line with my current profession.”
The OCOB Dean’s Advisory Council draws industry leaders from across the business world to provide input on everything, including specific aspects of the curriculum, the direction of the college, and ways the college can continue to offer Learn by Doing opportunities that align with cutting-edge practices in various established and emerging fields in order to graduate professionals who are immediately ready to contribute and lead within the workforce.
Matt and Sheri encourage other parents to get involved and do what they can to help the university.
"We’ve always supported our kids’ schools," Sheri said. "Whether it was grammar school, high school or now college, when we have seen a need, we volunteered our efforts and made contributions. That’s how these institutions get better. And if we can give to make it better, not just for our kids but for all the students, that’s a no brainer. I believe most parents, if they are able and if they are asked, would give as well. A little bit goes a long way. It doesn’t have to be a huge contribution. Anything is helpful."
"Cal Poly was a phenomenal experience.” Matt said in conclusion. “The professional foundation that I received from the engineering curriculum, the great professors, the classmates and friends that I made, and the combination of the academics, the environment and the extra-curricular activities -- the total experience. Sheri and I agree that you couldn't have scripted it much better for us."
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