CSULB’s College of Engineering recognized one of its longtime champions on Dec. 3, 2013, 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 and Electric and Southern California Gas Co., Sempra Energy’s California regulated utilities.
“This conference room is a central hub for much of the business that we conduct in the College of Engineering,” says Forouzan Golshani, dean of the College of Engineering. “Renaming it in this way seemed like a fitting way to acknowledge the enormous and enduring impact that Mr. Niggli has had on the College, and to salute his unparalleled achievements as an industry leader.” Niggli has made personal donations in excess of $200,000 to the College and has advocated for similar levels of financial support from various corporations. Additionally, as a past chair and current member of the dean’s advisory council, he has helped the College to establish such vital programs as the Distinguished Lecture Series, which brings experts to campus to discuss issues of global importance, and the CSULB Innovation Challenge, which offers students the chance to receive up to $50,000 in funding and services to make their business ideas become a reality. He also played a key role in the development of the College’s current strategic plan.
“I wanted to help allow those to enroll who, like me, did not have significant monetary resources to participate in college,” says Niggli. “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.”
From 2000 to 2006, Niggli was president of Sempra Generation, where he was responsible for the development, construction, operation and maintenance of merchant power plants and energy infrastructure throughout North America. During his tenure, Sempra Generation operated power plant assets in Nevada, California, Arizona, Texas and Mexico.
“I’ve always seen engineering as a discipline that helps society,” says Niggli. “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.”