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Niggli’s Support Recognized

Published: December 18, 2013

CSULB’s College of Engineering saluted a longtime supporter on Dec. 3, when it renamed ECS 312 as the Michael and Barbara Niggli Conference Room.

Niggli, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from CSULB in 1971, recently retired as president and chief operating officer of San Diego Gas and Electric.

“Michael Niggli is being honored for being a highly accomplished ethical leader with a distinctive portfolio of service achievements and for impactful assistance to the CSULB College of Engineering as a friend, an advisor, a philanthropist, a distinguished alumnus and a role model,” said College of Engineering Dean Forouzan Golshani. “I am truly impressed, not only by the personal characteristics of this wonderful man, but by his achievements in the energy sector and the respect that he has amassed in every city he has worked in.

“While we recognize Mr. Niggli for his unparalleled achievements as a highly successful industry leader,” Golshani added, “we must be thankful for his personal donations in excess of $250,000 and for his advocacy to affect similar levels of financial support from various corporations.”

Niggli began his career in 1971 at San Diego Gas and Electric before serving as Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer and President of the Nevada Power Company as well as Sierra Pacific Resources, a Nevada-based utility holding company formed following a merger with Nevada Power.

In his rare free time, he enjoys sailing, golf, model railroading and running. He and his late wife Barbara have one son. Niggli holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from San Diego State University.

Niggli chose CSULB after attending 13 schools in 12 years as the son of a father in the U.S. Navy.

“I had a significant interest in math and science so my counselor turned me toward engineering,” he recalled. “They indicated CSULB had one of the premiere engineering schools in the area. I enrolled and went straight through 132 units in four years. I also worked full-time at Hughes Aircraft as a design craftsman. One of the most important things affecting my choice of CSULB was the opportunity to take classes in the afternoons and evenings which allowed me to support my family and complete both my work and school obligations.”

As a past chair and current member of the dean’s advisory council, Niggli pointed with pride to the founding during his tenure of the Distinguished Lecture Series and Innovation Challenge. Presented in the fall and spring each year, the lecture series brings experts to campus to discuss issues of global importance. The CSULB Innovation Challenge offers students the chance to receive up to $50,000 in value, including $10,000 in seed funding, to make business ideas come true. “Plus, I’m proud of helping to put together a strategic plan for the College of Engineering,” he said.

Niggli's Support Recognized With Naming
Michael Niggli

As Niggli worked his way through the ranks of the power industry, it became clear to him that there was a need for more engineers.

“I’ve always seen engineering as a discipline that helps society,” he said. “When I think of engineers, I think of problem solvers. They innovate. That is why I saw it as a great opportunity to get more people into the engineering pipeline through CSULB’s College of Engineering.

“Plus, I wanted to help allow those to enroll who, like me, did not have significant monetary resources to participate in college,” he added. “I was the first in my entire family to graduate from college. I’m proud of that. I saw there were many others out there in similar situations who wanted access to a great, reasonably priced education. That was what CSULB was all about.”

Niggli is grateful for his CSULB opportunities. “Coming here offered me a chance to learn using technology I never thought I would have access to,” he said. “It set the table for success. I’ve enjoyed seeing the university grow. The physical plant and its assets are so much improved that I am even more proud to be an alum.”

Niggli sees his commitment to CSULB continuing. “When I went here as a student, I was very pleased to have the opportunity just to go to school,” he said. “The chance to advance came as a big surprise to a young college student who had only hopes of getting through and finding a decent job. But CSULB wound up providing a lot more than that.”

Golshani agrees that CSULB has much to offer. “This university and the College of Engineering can be as great as their friends enable them to be,” he said. “Mr. Niggli sets a wonderful example of a distinguished alum who comes back to impact positively the educational environment that sets his career off on a right path. I hope we can celebrate together the successes of many more of our friends and alumni in ways similar to Mr. Niggli’s recognition.”

–Richard Manly