$1 Million Donation to Aviation Program is Largest Individual Gift in Cypress College History

Cypress College has received its largest individual gift in the campus’ history, a $1 million donation to its aviation program. The commitment, made this semester by an anonymous donor, is being used to transform the program’s state-of-the-art flight-simulator lab into the region’s best public facility.

The simulator lab, which has already relocated to a larger space to accommodate upgraded equipment, will ultimately feature eight simulators, including a full-motion multi-engine turbo-prop simulator and one mirroring the recently released Boeing 737 Max. The donation is also intended to help the college acquire an airplane that can be flown from any one of four partner local airports. In addition, the donation will support the college’s flying team.

“We are inspired by the generosity and vision of our donor,” said JoAnna Schilling, Ph.D., president of Cypress College. “This donation was made to catapult our program to a level we only dreamed could be possible. At the same time, its immediate impact means that future pilots will already have unique learning opportunities at Cypress College.”

The donor — a retired businessman and investor — shared his two-question philosophy in seeking and identifying organizations to help: “What program can I invest in and have a great return? Is this a well-managed company that is operated with integrity?”

A pilot himself at a young age, the donor looked to Cypress College because of the work of Department Chair Ed Valdez — an Airline Transport Pilot with type ratings in the Boeing 727, 737, 757/767, A319/A320, and Gulfstream’s G2, G3, G4, and G5 aircraft — and the college’s physical location with proximity to Long Beach, John Wayne, and Fullerton airports.

“A huge advantage we have here is the Los Angeles airspace,” the donor said. “This is the most-complex airspace in the world. Pilots come from across the globe to train here.”


The existing philosophy of the Cypress College program — which uses simulators in a comprehensive fashion — also attracted the donor.

“We are creating pilots who know how to fly before they ever get into an airplane,” said Professor Valdez, who has served as a first officer, captain, and line-check airman for various airlines, including United Airlines, Skywest Airlines, and Champion Air, as well as for FlightSafety International as a Gulfstream and International Procedures Instructor. “Where we shine is that we build a very strong foundation.”

Said the donor: “Cypress College offers a great product at a great price. From a business standpoint, that’s the recipe for long-term success. Aerospace is a field where we can build an economic future, a way to address an eroding middle class. There is something bigger than I just like planes. This will make a difference.”

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