Celebrating Philanthropy: Valera Hall Named in Honor of Longtime Donors

  • outdoors, the building signage reading

    (L-R) CSUN President Erika D. Beck, Debbie and Milt Valera at the podium as the new building signage for Valera Hall is unveiled. “Your support has uplifted our campus. It will have a transformational impact on the entire community for generations to come. As we continue to advance knowledge in service of the public good, I know that we are all grateful for the depth of your humanity and compassion, and especially for your commitment to advancing equity, inclusion and a sense of belonging,” said CSUN President Erika D. Beck. Photo by David J. Hawkins.

  • A man, Albert Martinez, stands at a podium, giving a speech.

    CSUN Chicana/o studies graduate student Albert Martinez, an alumnus of the Milt and Debbie Valera EOP Resilient Scholars Program, speaks about the program’s impact: “I grew up as a broken kid who didn't know how to dream, how to believe in myself and how to find value within myself. For many foster youths, this is our reality. We will carry uncertainty for the rest of our lives. I stand before you as a 40-year-old former foster youth who is still struggling to find stability in the only way I can, which is through higher education. With the support of the program, I graduated in 2020 with my bachelor's in Chicana/o studies, and I'm currently halfway through my master's program. And for once in my life, I believe that I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. My journey hasn't been easy. There were many, many times that all I wanted to do was drop out and give up. But if it wasn't for the amazing EOP and Resilient Scholars staff…who actually believed in me when I couldn't believe in myself and who convinced me that it was okay to dream — I can tell you for certain that I wouldn't be standing here today. Let me assure you that programs like these, like this, they make a difference and they matter. Thank you, Milt and Debbie Valera, for your generous gift, for the love, for the support. But most importantly, thank you for believing.” Photo by Lee Choo.

  • A group of 5 women and 2 men listen to the speaker (out of frame). The women raise both hands to the air, showing support for the speaker.

    Milt and Debbie Valera EOP Resilient Scholars Program students and staff enjoy the evening’s festivities. The Jewish harvest festival, Sukkot, ended the day before the Valera Hall celebration and in her speech, Debbie Valera highlighted the connection between the two celebrations: “Sukkot is a joyous holiday, where it's common to eat outside in a three-sided tent with fruits and vegetables hanging from the top. It is a time of year that we give thanks for what we've been afforded. A good harvest is good fortune, and good fortune is to be shared.” Photo by Lee Choo.

  • 9 members of the Valera family pose for a group photo. They are standing and Valera Hall is in the background.

    The Valera family. Photo by David J. Hawkins.

  • The female guests pose for a photo.

    (L-R) Guests DeAnne Heymann, alumnae Ellen Bass and Sharrise Gilbert. Photo by David J. Hawkins.

  • A man, wearing a suit and tie, stands at podium. He is smiling at an unseen audience.

    Thor Steingraber, interim vice president for University Relations and Advancement and executive and artistic director of The Soraya, opened the evening’s festivities. In addition to the naming of Valera Hall, the lobby of The Soraya has been named The Milt and Debbie Valera Lobby in honor of their generous support of the performing arts. Photo by Lee Choo.

  • A group of women and men pose for a photo.

    (L-R) Mark Stover, dean of the University Library; Farrell Webb, Provost administrative fellow for special projects; Ranjit Philip, interim vice president for Information Technology; Dimitri Tamalis, associate dean of the College of Health and Human Development; Amy Levin, assistant vice president of graduate studies; Joyce Feucht-Haviar, dean of the Tseng College and Senior International Officer; Bohsiu Wu, associate dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; Chandra Subramaniam, dean of the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics; Matt Cahn, vice provost; Yan Searcy, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences; and Elizabeth Adams, associate vice president of undergraduate studies. Photo by David J. Hawkins.

  • A couple, a man and a woman, pose for photo.

    Alumnus Harvey Bookstein ’70 (Business Administration) and his wife, Harriet, for whom Bookstein Hall is named, attend the celebration. Bookstein Hall is home to the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics. Photo by David J. Hawkins.

  • A group of 13 people, of various ages, gender and ethnicities, pose with Milt and Debbie Valera in front to the Valera Hall building signage.

    The Valeras refer to scholars of the Milt and Debbie Valera EOP Resilient Scholars Program as ‘heroes.’ Here, heroes, representing students and staff, pose for a group photo with the Valeras. Photo by David J. Hawkins.

  • Exterior evening. President Beck, wearing a surgical face mask, speaks with Milt Valera. Both are standing and Milt clasps President Becks hands in a gesture of warmth.

    The evening draws to a close. CSUN President Erika D. Beck with philanthropist Milt Valera. “When I graduated more than 50 years ago, there was little to tell me that I would be standing here with all of you to be part of this unbelievable event at my alma mater. When I first got here and went from one class to another, I often wondered about who the names belong to on the various buildings. I wondered, even more so in later years, as our institution grew from San Fernando Valley State College to California State University, Northridge, with more buildings and facilities with names on them. … It's been an incredible journey for Debbie and me, and our children and grandchildren. Today marks the highlight of my educational life as a student, a graduate and an alumnus, and a proud time for all the Valeras,” Milt Valera said earlier in his remarks to guests. Photo by Lee Choo.

On the evening of Sept. 28, 2021, guests of the university gathered for a celebration in honor of alumnus and notary pioneer Milt Valera ’68 (Journalism) and his wife, Debbie, and the naming of Valera Hall. Scores of guests attended the outdoor event, the first of its kind in more than 20 months, held in the breezeway of Valera Hall.

In November 2020 the CSU Board of Trustees voted to name CSUN’s administration building, formerly known as University Hall, Valera Hall in recognition of the Valeras’ generosity to the campus. Longtime supporters of CSUN, the Valeras have committed more than $11 million for programs across the campus including the Milt and Debbie Valera EOP Resilient Scholars Program, which provides a safety net for college students who grew up in the foster care system.

Their philanthropy also supports the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts (The Soraya); the David Nazarian College of Business and Economics; the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication; the University Library; and the Michael D. Eisner College of Education, as well as an endowment for the university’s Jewish Studies Interdisciplinary Program in the College of Humanities.