Cuyamaca College is naming a classroom in the Ornamental Horticulture Complex after a longtime benefactor which recently endowed the college district’s Promise Plus program $100,000 for student scholarships.
The Governing Board approved the classroom dedication recently in recognition of the decades-long support of the Rice Family Foundation, which has donated more than $1 million to Cuyamaca and Grossmont colleges over the years, particularly the horticulture program.
A plaque will be posted outside a classroom in the complex currently under renovation as part of the college district’s Proposition V construction bond program. The $16.7 million project, scheduled to be completed in fall 2020, will include updated facilities, well-equipped greenhouses, an outdoor instructional area and expanded retail space for the college nursery.
In 2018, the Rice Family Foundation was lauded by the Foundation for Grossmont and Cuyamaca Colleges and presented with the Bill and Judy Garrett Civic Leadership Award for its years of support for Cuyamaca and Grossmont College students.
This time, the foundation created by the late Morgan Rice, a San Diego real estate investor, is being recognized by the college district for its support of Promise Plus, a scholarship program to help students at the East County community colleges reach their education goals.
Promise Plus Scholarships were created by the Foundation for Grossmont & Cuyamaca Colleges to provide critically needed scholarships to students at both colleges. The scholarships are targeting new full-time college students, adults returning to college to improve their workforce skills and students transferring from Adult School. Priority will be given to students with financial need.
The Rice Family Foundation’s pledge of $100,000 over five years follows a tradition dating back to the md-‘90s when the Morgan Rice Internship Program was established to provide Cuyamaca College students practical work experience in nursery production and sales. The Rice Family Foundation continues to fund the program, along with scholarships to students in the Ornamental Horticulture program.
“The Foundation’s support of our Ornamental Horticulture program has served the community and countless students for many years,” said Cuyamaca College President Julianna Barnes. “This latest gift will provide additional support for our students; we are grateful for their continued support and are pleased to be able to name a classroom in their honor.”
Lisa Wilson, Morgan Rice’s niece, said the mission of Promise Plus is in keeping with the philosophy of the charitable foundation created by her uncle. She said her uncle, who died in 2004, was once a high school teacher in El Centro and believed in the transformative power of education. The emphasis of funding and grants from his foundation is on education, particularly programs benefitting San Diego County’s neediest populations. Beneficiaries include Balboa Park museums, the San Diego Zoo, K-12 and higher education programs, and others focusing on literacy, music and the arts.
“We have always felt a strong connection to both Cuyamaca and Grossmont colleges and our foundation board believes that higher education is a really important cause to support,” Wilson said. “There are so many young students who can’t afford to go to college and the Promise Plus program is a great way to help.”
Since the early 2000s, the Grossmont College Theatre Arts Department has benefitted from the Rice Family Foundation’s financial support of the college’s touring program that brings the performing arts to more than 8,000 children every year at 16 East County elementary schools. The Heritage of the Americas Museum and the Water Conservation Garden, both located at Cuyamaca College, also receive foundation dollars.
She added her uncle was an outdoorsman with a keen interest in horticulture and geology. His connection to Cuyamaca stems from his long friendship with Governing Board trustee and former Ornamental Horticulture program chair Brad Monroe. The pair became acquainted after Rice, who at one time owned most of the land parcels on San Miguel Mountain near the college, contacted Monroe about donating a cargo shipping container he no longer needed. From that contact, a friendship and an enduring relationship with the college district was born.