Alums gift $5 million to SJ State athletics

San Jose State University announced Thursday that two of its alumni have donated $5 million towards the school’s athletic department.

Larry and Deidre Solari, former SJSU students who met on a blind date after college, gave the university a signed gift commitment that will support SJSU football personnel and facilities, including plans for a football operations center envisioned near CEFCU Stadium, university officials said.

The operations center would include locker rooms, offices, and an auditorium, according to the university.

There are already operations going on at SJSU’s South Campus, including recently completed tennis and golf facilities as well as a softball field that is nearing completion. University officials said that the gift would supplement improvements that are underway in that area.

Larry Solari transferred to SJSU as a sophomore and graduated in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in business and industrial management. He was the president of SJSU’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity chapter and played baseball at the university. He regularly attended SJSU football games.

Deirdre Solari attended the university around the same time as her husband and was focused on teaching and psychology in school. She was an Alpha Phi sorority member.

The Solaris later moved to Toledo, Ohio, where Larry worked for nearly 30 years for a fiberglass company. They kept up with SJSU football when they returned to California.

University president Mary Papazian said in a statement:

“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. … 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.”