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ALUMNUS ENRICHES CSUN WITH GIFT; ENTREPRENEUR WILL DONATE $1 MILLION.

Byline: Luz Villarreal Daily News Staff Writer

Dirk Gates' undergraduate education at Cal State Northridge cost him less than $5,000. It was an investment that helped make him a millionaire.

Today, the 1983 graduate is president and chief executive officer of Xircom, a computer accessory company that grossed nearly $200 million in sales last year.

And in a quite expensive ``thank you'' to his alma mater, Gates personally donated $1 million to CSUN's College of Computer Science - the largest alumni gift in the university's 39-year history.

``When I went to school there, I feel I got a particularly good education,'' said the 35-year-old Thousand Oaks entrepreneur. ``It contributed to my success and career . . . in the back of my mind I wanted to repay them. Now I'm at a point in my career where I can do that.''

In the eight years since it was founded, Xircom has twice been listed in Fortune magazine as one of the 100 fastest-growing small companies.

Gates, who made his donation in the form of a trust that becomes available after his death, hopes his gift inspires other alumni to make similar donations.

So do university officials.

``This gift is so important because it sends out a wake-up call,'' said Dianne Appel, development officer for CSUN's College of Engineering and Computer Science. ``We have a lot of affluent alumni and we need strong leadership. Dirk is a wonderful ambassador for us because of what he's done. He's remembering his roots.''

Last year, about 4,500 CSUN alumni made contributions to the university. The gifts averaged $165 apiece. The largest gift the university received was a $2 million bequest in 1993 from Grace Petri, a community resident and friend of the university.

As for Gates, this isn't the first time he has shown CSUN his gratitude. For the last three years, his company has made a $5,000 contribution to the College of Engineering and Computer Science for scholarships and equipment. He also has donated $1 million to Pepperdine University, where he earned his master's degree in business administration in 1990.

Gates, who grew up in Granada Hills, said he attended CSUN as an electrical engineering student because it was the only school he could afford at the time.

``It was the best thing that could have happened,'' Gates said. ``I compared notes with other buddies at the time and found I had better classes. I got more attention. What I learned was problem-solving, how to apply it beyond engineering.''

After graduating summa cum laude from the Northridge campus, Gates and a business partner built their success from a product no bigger than a credit card. The computer adapter, which connects laptop computers to local computer networks, was a huge hit with $600,000 in sales in its first year and $10 million the next year.

Gates' company, Xircom, is frequently in the news. Earlier this year, company officials bought and sold company stocks within a six-month period, violating the Securities and Exchange Commission regulations. Gates said those involved were well-intentioned and did not fully understand the complicated SEC regulations. The profits have since been returned.

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PHOTO Xircom CEO Dirk Gates, who earned a bachelor's degree from CSUN in 1983, has shown his gratitude with a $1 million gift.

David Sprague/Daily News
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 9, 1997
Words:551
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