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When Cal State Fullerton physicists and their students made key contributions to the first discovery of gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of space-time — university donor and retired engineering executive Nicholas Begovich became fascinated with the cataclysmic event.

The groundbreaking detection, announced in 2016, brought Begovich together with physics faculty members Joshua Smith and Geoffrey Lovelace.

“When Nick first visited the Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy Center, he began asking questions,” recalls Smith, professor of physics and Dan Black Director of Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy. “Nick’s questions rapidly became more difficult and insightful, and his curiosity has truly been an inspiration to our team ever since.”

The newfound interest prompted Begovich and his wife, Lee, to make one of the largest philanthropic investments in the history of Cal State Fullerton — a collection of 14 classic sports cars valued at $10 million — to support the colleges of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Engineering and Computer Science.

Before Begovich passed away in May 2020, he shared how he felt about supporting the university: “I can’t tell you how happy I am about this. It completes my life.”

In recognition of the couple’s philanthropy, CSUF renamed the research center to the Nicholas and Lee Begovich Center for Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy.

“We are incredibly honored that Nick and Lee have chosen to invest in the future of gravitational-wave science at Cal State Fullerton,” says Smith. “Their gift will have a transformative impact on students through research, teaching and outreach.”

To make a gift to the Nicholas and Lee Begovich Center for Gravitational-Wave Physics and Astronomy, contact Michael Karg, senior director of development, at 657-278-3348 or