San Jose, Calif. — San Jose State University is pleased to announce that it has received a $5 million signed gift commitment from alumni, philanthropists and Monterey Peninsula residents Larry and Deirdre Solari. Their gift, among the largest ever to SJSU Athletics, will support SJSU football personnel and facilities, including plans for a new Spartan Athletics Center envisioned for the east side of CEFCU Stadium, Home of the Spartans.
“On behalf of the entire San Jose State University community, I would like to express my profound gratitude to Larry and Deirdre Solari for their leadership gift,” said President Mary A. Papazian. “This gift supports and honors more than a program; it expresses a deep commitment to the university and higher education as a pathway to opportunity.”
The new operations center will include locker rooms, offices, an auditorium and seating on the 50-yard line. In addition, the project would rebuild the stadium’s east side. This gift will therefore supplement improvements underway throughout South Campus, including recently completed tennis and golf facilities, and a soon-to-be-completed softball field.
“Larry and Deirdre Solari are long-time friends and supporters, and I am thrilled to have this opportunity to thank them for their generous gift,” said Athletics Director Marie Tuite. “The Solaris are now among our greatest benefactors in terms of investing in our football program and in assisting with our efforts to elevate the overall profile of the program. This is a touch point day for Spartan Football, Spartan Athletics and San Jose State University.”
An aspiring engineer from a small farm town between Lodi and Stockton, Larry Solari transferred to San Jose State as a sophomore in 1961. Although San Jose’s population was small by modern terms, San Jose State offered all the perks of a metropolitan campus. Solari graduated in 1965 with a bachelor’s in business and industrial management, and completed an MBA one year later. In addition, he served as president of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, played baseball and regularly attended Spartan football games, both home and away.
Oakland native Deirdre Keefe attended San Jose State around the same time as her future husband. Like Larry, she was active in Greek life. As an Alpha Phi sorority member, she enjoyed Panhellenic traditions such as the Greek Show, Sparta Sings and Homecoming. She was elected Lambda Chi Alpha Crescent Girl in 1964. Her academic interests included teaching and psychology. She went on to work in television, advertising and executive recruitment. Larry and Deirdre met after college, on what proved to be a lucky blind date.
The Solaris built their life together based on their San Jose State experience. Larry’s nearly 30-year career with Owens-Corning Fiberglass took them to Toledo, Ohio, where they raised their family while he rose to serve as president of the company’s building materials group. The couple continued following college football including the Spartans, and resumed regularly attending SJSU football games when they returned to California. Now semi-retired, Larry is a private equity firm partner and serves on several boards.
At San Jose State, the Solaris observed former head coaches Mike MacIntyre and Dick Tomey, and appreciated their focus on building a strong foundation. The couple sees current Head Coach Brent Brennan taking a similar approach, influenced by his experience serving as an assistant coach during the MacIntyre and Tomey years.
“As a former athlete, I know the value of lessons learned on the field,” Larry Solari said. “As a businessman, I also know that we must provide the very best we can for our players, coaches and staff in order to attract the talent we need to sustain and grow Spartan football. It is one aspect of the university—a very visible one—and its success will raise the stature of San Jose State.”
San Jose State launched a new fundraising model in August 2017, creating an Athletics Advancement team to elevate fundraising efforts, leverage University Advancement resources, and enhance day-to-day connectivity and alignment as the university works to increase resources for its student-athletes, coaches and support staff.
“When we embarked on this plan, we saw much to gain from combining the resources and talent of University Advancement and Athletics,” said Vice President for University Advancement Paul Lanning. “This commitment from the Solaris is proof positive that teamwork and cross-campus collaboration will raise San Jose State’s visibility and inspire alumni and supporters to invest in the university. I echo our president and athletics director in thanking the Solaris for their support.”