30th Anniversary

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The history of the Don Diego Scholarship Foundation is a story about San Diego County. It is a story about San Diegans striving to preserve our region’s deep agricultural roots. Most of all, it is a story about people joining together to support future generations of leaders pursuing their college and career goals.

Incorporated as a 501

[c]3 nonprofit arm of the San Diego County Fair and Del Mar Fairgrounds, the Don Diego Scholarship Foundation began providing scholarships in 1986 on a modest scale. Initially, it awarded three college scholarships of $1,000 each to high school seniors: the Fairest of the Fair, and the most outstanding FFA and 4H students competing for these awards. Soon, the Foundation began to increase the monetary awards and number of recipients.

Growth and Expansion

Even before the Fairest of the Fair program ended in the mid-2000s, Don Diego’s scholarship program expanded to offer two new scholarships (in addition to FFA and 4H): one to a Fair employee and one to a Fair exhibitor/participant. The Foundation eventually expanded its monetary awards to $5,000 for each scholarship. Along the way, it also took on support of the Fair’s Plant*Grow*Eat program by sponsoring buses so that elementary students from low-income San Diego schools could learn about agriculture and nutrition in a fun, hands-on way.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of an increasing pool of donors, popularity of the annual Gala and introduction of innovative revenue streams such as the Amigo Club and Legacy Brick programs, in recent years, the Foundation has been able to grow its annual college scholarship awards to 12 recipients; then to 13. Currently, 14 students annually share $44,000 in scholarships, with the most outstanding receiving $10,000.

A National Footprint

Stanford. MIT. Other prestigious private universities. University of California and California State campuses. Other noteworthy public institutions. Highly regarded community colleges. Specialty schools.

Over the past 30 years of providing a total of approximately $740,000 in scholarships to 165 students, Don Diego scholars have carved out a national footprint of higher education from the Pacific to the Atlantic; from Iowa farm country to deep in the heart of Texas.

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You can view past scholars’ names at the Legacy Brick Fountain in the Plaza de Mexico at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. You can support the endeavors of future recipients by purchasing a brick and leaving your own lasting legacy.

As three decades of scholars continue to follow their dreams, achieve their career goals and create powerful success stories that reverberate throughout the community, we at Don Diego look forward to the next 30 years!


Jon Liss, Chair, Don Diego Scholarship Foundation