A Chicoan whose legacy lives on

Remembering local philanthropist Steve Nettleton

The author is president of Chico State.

A few months after being appointed president of Chico State in 2016, the Chico Heat contacted me and asked if I would throw out the first pitch before a home game that summer. I agreed to do it, and while that in and of itself was thrilling, when I strode to the pitcher’s mound I noticed Steve Nettleton also was there to throw out his own first pitch.

I’ve always admired Steve Nettleton and his wife, Kathy, for their selfless community service for the city of Chico and, by extension, Chico State. From their charitable donations to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the North Valley and American Red Cross, to the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society, the Nettletons sought to help improve life for those in their community.

It was the Nettletons’ $2.5 million donation in 1997 to renovate and beautify Ray Bohler Baseball Field on the Chico State campus that helped propel our ballpark to become one of the finest and most scenic Division II baseball facilities in the nation.

Steve and I shared a desire to advance a cause we strongly believe in. For me, that cause is higher education, from leading-edge research and inclusiveness, to preparing our students for life after graduation. For Steve, the cause was philanthropy, and folded within that was, of course, baseball.

Rare is the higher education institution that is so intertwined with its wider community as is the case with Chico State and the city of Chico. Steve’s philanthropy strengthened that existing foundation and the result is on display on the west end of our beautiful campus, at Nettleton Stadium.

So on that night, when we both took the field in front of a sold-out crowd at a stadium bearing his name, on a campus that means everything to me, we met each other for the first time. After our first pitches, we spoke and he gave me the warmest embrace that confirmed for me that he truly cared for his fellow Chico residents.

I’m grateful to have met Steve Nettleton, I’m saddened to have lost him, but his legacy will live on forever.