SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Alex G. Spanos, Cal Poly alumnus and a longtime supporter and philanthropist for the university and, more recently, longtime owner of the National Football League's Los Angeles Chargers, passed away Tuesday morning, October 9, 2018.
Spanos was 95.
Alex's relationship with Cal Poly began during his time as a student in the aerospace engineering program in 1941-42. Alex was a member of the men's swimming team and, with his brother Danny, was a member of the Men's Glee Club (where the pair had a novelty tap dancing act) and served as a drum major for the marching band. He served as a B-29 gunner in the Army Air Corps during World War II and returned to his home in Stockton to finish his education at Pacific. He lettered in swimming and diving at Pacific but left college to work in his father's bakery until deciding in 1951 to venture out on his own, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Since then Alex, and his wife, Faye, made significant contributions to the university and stayed connected with the campus community.
Alex's $8 million donation in 2004 to renovate the university's football stadium is one of the most significant gifts in the history of Cal Poly Athletics. After being rededicated in his honor in 2006, the stadium now bears his name and hosts many of Cal Poly's most high profile annual events, including football and soccer games, spring commencement ceremonies, and the rodeo during Open House.
The Spanoses also donated $1.5 million to the university in 2003 to help fund the remodel of the Cal Poly Theatre — now named the Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre — a significant part of the Performing Arts Center complex on campus.
Alex G. Spanos was born on Sept. 28, 1923, in Stockton, Calif. He married his wife, Faye, in 1948, raised four children -- Dean, Dea, Alexis and Michael -- and became prolific philanthropists, donating to causes related to schools, children, the arts and hospitals.
Faye Spanos died earlier this year, in August, at the age of 92.
One of six children, Alex Spanos built a billion-dollar fortune in real estate and construction with A.G. Spanos Companies, a development firm focused on residential and commercial construction, that he founded in 1960.
"Cal Poly's campus community is sad today to learn of the passing of alumnus and longtime university supporter Alex Spanos," the university said in a statement.
"Alex was named an honored alumnus of Cal Poly in 1974. The university awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2004, when he was a speaker at commencement. As well, he was inducted into the Cal Poly Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009.
"Cal Poly is thankful for its decades-long relationship with Alex and Faye, and our thoughts are with their children and the rest of the Spanos family at this time," the statement adds.
Spanos purchased 60 percent of the Chargers in August 1984 from majority owner Eugene Klein for $70 million, the culmination of a lifelong dream to own an NFL franchise. Over the next decade, Spanos bought out shares of several minority owners and now owns 97 percent of the team.
The pinnacle of Spanos' ownership was the Chargers reaching the Super Bowl after the 1994 season.
"We have no words that can adequately express our sadness with his passing," the team wrote in a statement. "We will continue to honor his legacy by dedicating ourselves to making a difference in the community and throughout our country."
While he remained active for many years in business matters related to the team, Spanos turned over the day-to-day management of the Chargers to his eldest son, Dean, before the start of the 1994 season. Dean Spanos currently serves as the Chargers' controlling owner and team chairman.
The Chargers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles in early 2017.
The Spanos family issued a statement following the death of Alex Spanos.
"It is with heavy hearts that the Spanos family announces the death of Alexander Gus Spanos. Alex passed away peacefully surrounded by his loved ones.
"From humble beginnings to becoming the top apartment builder across the nation and the owner of an NFL franchise, Alex proved that dreams do come true.
"Alex was the embodiment of the American dream and leaves behind a legacy of passion and hard work. Born the son of Greek immigrants in 1923, Alex's tireless work ethic and fearlessness was instilled in him when, at only 8 years old, he began working in his father's bakery before and after school. A tough upbringing coupled with the unshakeable belief that he could accomplish anything he set his mind to drove him to succeed and overcome countless obstacles.
"Throughout Alex's life, Faye, his wife of nearly 70 years, was his rock and inspiration. It was Faye's unconditional love and support that gave him the strength and peace of mind to take risks and pursue his goals unfettered. Together they contributed generously to worthy causes and charities. Hospitals, universities, scholarship funds, youth programs, sports programs, churches, schools – all were recipients of their incredible generosity.
"Through it all, Alex never forgot his roots and took immense pride in both his Hellenic heritage and Greek Orthodox faith. It was through that faith he learned compassion and empathy. Whenever he was called upon to help, he always delivered. Passionate about education, helping the underprivileged and enabling those with a dream to better their lives, he took pride in setting an example for others to follow.
"We have no words that can adequately express our sadness with his passing. We will continue to honor his legacy by dedicating ourselves to making a difference in the community and throughout our country. As Alex would say, 'Believe in yourself. There is nothing you can't do if you set your mind to it.' "
Funeral arrangements will be announced in the next few days.
Faye and Alex Spanos leave behind 15 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.