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Business Alumni and Philanthropists to Receive Honorary Doctorates

Ruth and David Singlyn

For David and Ruth Singelyn, watching master’s degree candidates cross Commencement stage under the banner of the Singelyn Graduate School of Business is a vision beginning to take shape.

The couple, long devoted to providing resources to help Cal Poly Pomona students succeed, gifted the university with $12.5 million in 2022 to expand the university’s graduate business program, which was named in their honor.

“We had a vision to be transformative in what was being taught in graduate school,” said David Singelyn (’84, accounting and computer information systems). “Society and the business world have progressed dramatically in the last couple of decades. Some of the disciplines being taught in the College of Business Administration needed to be refreshed.”

The graduate school offers six degree programs, from business analytics to digital marketing to digital supply chain management. With a mission to ensure that the programs have longevity and purpose, the master’s degree curriculum emphasizes both technical expertise and essential skills such as teamwork and communication, David said.

“You can do a very good analysis about a topic, but if you can’t explain it to people, it has no value,” he said. “The value comes in not only the ability to produce, but also in the ability to explain.”

For their contributions to Cal Poly Pomona, the couple will both receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at Commencement.

“It’s an honor,” David said. “We’re very appreciative of the recognition that it brings and hopefully, we can live up to the expectations of what it means.”

Ruth Singelyn (’84, computer information systems) also expressed gratitude for the honor.

“We are pleasantly surprised and very humbled,” she said. “We are excited to be a part of the Singelyn Graduate School of Business to help students be well prepared and confident in their careers and lives..”

Cal Poly Pomona holds a special place in the couple’s hearts, having met on campus as undergraduates and also three family members — David’s brother, his sister-in-law and his nephew — earning degrees from the university.

Their education at the university set them on a pathway to success. After graduation in 1984, David worked as an accountant and computer auditor at Arthur Young & Company and later served as controller for Winchell’s Donut Houses. The Orange County native held key positions at several private and publicly traded real estate companies, including treasurer of Public Storage; chief financial officer, chairman, president and board director at Public Storage Canada; and chief executive officer of American Commercial Equities. In 2011, he co-founded American Homes 4 Rent, an industry leader in the single-family home rental market and serves as a company’s trustee and its Chief Executive Officer.

Ruth, whose family immigrated to the United States from Germany when she was a baby, was a first-generation college student. She opted to pursue a career in a tech field in the 1980s, something that was uncommon for women at the time. After graduation, she had a successful career with IBM. After pausing her career to raise her three children, she earned a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Cal Lutheran University and worked as a marriage and family therapist.

“I was grateful that Cal Poly Pomona really prepared me for the workforce,” she said. “My initial job was as a systems engineer at IBM, and I felt I was well prepared.”

Both credit the university’s hands-on learning philosophy with giving them the tools needed to more easily transition from school to career.

Their career success has enabled them to give back with their time and resources.

In 2017, David spoke at a leadership forum in the College of Business Administration. That event reestablished a relationship between the college and the Singelyns, who wanted to raise awareness of Cal Poly Pomona’s business programs. A donation from the couple established the Singelyn Center for Innovative Analytics in 2018, a collaborative hub where students can analyze data to address business and societal issues.

“David and Ruth’s commitment to our students, the power of a Cal Poly Pomona education and the future leaders of our world epitomize generosity, foresight and hope that our students will continue shaping a better world,” said University President Soraya M. Coley.

David also serves as the Cal Poly Pomona Philanthropic Foundation’s board vice chair, a College of Business Administration Dean’s Advisory Council board member and a Singelyn Center for Innovative Analytics Advisory Board Member. In 2019, the couple was honored as Distinguished Alumni for their achievements, commitment to the university and service to students.

“Throughout the seasons of our lives, I came to appreciate more and more the successful foundation that I received at Cal Poly Pomona,” Ruth said. “I can directly look back at my various volunteer work or jobs, and the success comes from communication and teamwork skills. Those are important life skills. I am appreciative of what I have received.”

The couple’s philanthropic efforts not only come in the form of financial donations, but also in the valuable conversations and mentoring opportunities they have with students.

“We know that we have been tremendously blessed, and some of it is through dedication and hard work,” David said. “But we got a foundation in college and had doors open along the way. Those who are blessed have an obligation to society to give back.”

Visit the commencement website to find the schedule and information for graduates, guests and visitors. Read more stories about the class of 2024.