Driven to Help: Nicholas & Lee Begovich Make Historic Gift

Nicholas and Lee Begovich raced into the record books this year with a gift of historic proportions.

Nick Begovich poses with his extensive collection of sports and grand touring cars.

Nick Begovich poses with his extensive collection of sports and grand touring cars.

In February 2020, the couple, longtime supporters of California State University, gave the College of Engineering & Computer Science $3 million to be used for interdisciplinary research, new courses and electives, student projects, early-career faculty members, and other important college initiatives. The gift was the largest single show of support in the college’s history.

Nick Begovich's gifted car collection features Lamborghini, Talbot-Lago, and Ferrari.
Begovich’s gifted car collection – featuring nameplates like Pegaso, Lamborghini, Talbot-Lago, Ferrari, and De Tomaso – was sold to the Audrain Automobile Museum in Newport, Rhode Island.

Nick Begovich was an electrical engineer who made groundbreaking contributions to air defense system design. He was a regular fixture at the college, always eager to attend student events and learn about student projects. A lifelong car enthusiast, he was especially fascinated with the college’s Formula SAE and Baja SAE teams, in which students build a formula-style race car and off-road vehicle for SAE International’s collegiate competition. One year he even made a trip to Gorman to attend the Baja SAE race.

In fact, the Begoviches’ gift came in the form of cars: 14 postwar European sports and grand touring cars from Nick’s collection, valued at $10 million. The couple’s contribution serves as lead gift for the five-year, $200 million “It Takes a Titan: The Campaign for Cal State Fullerton,” which kicked off in March 2020. It is the university’s first-ever comprehensive philanthropic campaign, prioritizing projects that enhance academic innovation, empower students, transform campus structures, and enrich the community. The gift includes $3 million for ECS initiatives and $7 million for the Nicholas and Lee Begovich Center for Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy.

“I hope I’m setting an example,” said Begovich at the announcement of the couple’s generous gift. “To supply the funds to advance our understanding of the world – that is amazing joy … real joy.”

Nick Begovich flew his 904-076 Porsche car home to California on a TWA flight.
After taking delivery of 904-076 at Porsche and driving the car in Germany, Nick Begovich flew the car home to California on a TWA flight.

Nick Begovich earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from Caltech and spent more than two decades at Hughes Aircraft Company as a director of engineering and then vice president of the ground systems group. He later retired after serving as corporate vice president of Litton Industries. His ties to Cal State Fullerton date back to the early 1960s, when the late Miles D. McCarthy, chairman of the then-Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Division and a founding faculty member who later served as acting president, asked him to serve on the Engineering Advisory Committee with other local executives with technical backgrounds.

In May, Nick Begovich passed away at age 98. Just weeks later, the gifted car collection – featuring nameplates like Pegaso, Lamborghini, Talbot-Lago, Ferrari, and De Tomaso – was sold to the Audrain Automobile Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, for future display. The funds generated by the sale of this valuable gift will echo through the college for years to come.

A Game-Changing Gift: From a Lifelong Learner

“The endowment established through the generosity of Nick and Lee Begovich is a game-changer,” says Dean Susan Barua. “It will enable the college to provide the resources and support for faculty research, cross-disciplinary student projects, and overall capacity building in areas such as power electronics and sustainable energy.”

Over the past 50 years, the Begoviches’ philanthropy to the university has mostly supported the arts. Ten years ago, they donated $1 million to the Department of Visual Arts, prompting the renaming of the Main Art Gallery to the Nicholas & Lee Begovich Gallery in their honor. Nick Begovich’s longtime connection to ECS, his admiration for the work of faculty and students, and his insatiable appetite for learning and discovery inspired his final – and most significant gift.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am about this,” he said at an event held last year in his honor. “It completes my life.”

Dean Barua remembers Begovich as a lifelong learner, possessing an inspiring mixture of curiosity, technical aptitude, and empathy for others.

“These are all things we aspire to bring out in our students,” she says. “Their gift will advance innovative ideas to propel our college forward to best meet the needs of our students and region.”

Empower Titans to Solve the Problems of Today and Tomorrow

College of Engineering & Computer Science students explore technical possibilities and innovate solutions, preparing them to pursue global careers, advanced degrees, or entrepreneurial endeavors. Meeting the educational needs of our students and the growing demand for educated technical professionals is a top priority. So too is creating new space to enhance our physical learning environment, recruiting and retaining the best and brightest faculty, and accelerating the preparation of our workforce-ready graduates. Together, we can provide more immersive experiences that deepen learning, spark innovation, and engage the next generation of STEM pioneers.

Your investments through It Takes a Titan: The Campaign for Cal State Fullerton can help us meet those goals. Our plans include: construction of a new building with state-of-the-art technology and collaborative spaces; establishment of student scholarships and fellowships; resource development such as the Women in Computer Science and Engineering and entrepreneur-in-residence programs that foster entrepreneurial thinking; advancement of programs that attract future STEM students; and student project support for all ECS students. Learn more about opportunities for giving and how your contribution will be used by contacting Michael Karg, senior director of development, at or 657-278-3348.

Learn More

Recommended Articles