What’s the connection?
Donald Green, Father of Telecom Valley, provides the linkage.
Don is well known as the former CEO of Advanced Fibre Communication  and board member of Cerent. His commitment to telecommunications and ensuring a better quality of life in Sonoma County and beyond, led him to philanthropic pursuits, including funding for the construction of the Green Music Hall on the SSU campus in Rohnert Park, California.
With this world-class concert hall in place, SSU now draws prestigious artists, concert ensembles, and entertainers to the Green Music Center. I expect that the Green Music Hall will one day be viewed as Ruben Armiñana’s defining achievement and Don Green’s legacy to Sonoma County.
Don Green will be remembered for more than being a philanthropic builder. He is seen as a role model by his former charges. Don’s giving nature compelled former Cerent employees to get into the spirit of giving in the early 2000s too. Six of these entrepreneurs pushed SSU to establish an engineering center to support a masters of engineering program, which subsequently led to the addition of a bachelors of engineering program. Of course, much “pushing” wasn’t needed. The business and local communities were for it from the start.
Saeid Rahimi, a receptive member of the SSU faculty, led the charge to raise funds for the campus’s engineering center. High-tech businesses in Sonoma County liked what they heard about the introduction of a Master’s program available for their engineers. Companies like Cerent (now Cisco), Hewlett-Packard (then Agilent and now Keysight), OCLI, JDSU, and AFC (acquired by Tellabs) all expressed interest. Saeid followed up with each of them and relentlessly worked his contacts.
AFC contributed over a million in cash and HP and JDSU donated much needed equipment for the engineering labs. Saied also secured funding from the W.M. Keck foundation for fitting a microanalysis lab. Even the Congresswoman of the sixth district, Lynne Woolsey, secured federal funds to support the engineering program.
The Masters program was initially introduced as part of the Natural Sciences faculty, the only name the rest of the faculty could tolerate. Supportive the rest of the university faculty was not, in spite of strong community, industry, and federal support for launching the engineering program. As Armiñana said years ago, it was “a privately funded but publicly administered program.”
Saeid believed strongly that SSU needed to provide the technology side of education for the community, not just a liberal arts offering. In his view, SSU had not been doing its job. Saeid observed that Cerent helped transform the culture of SSU, just as the little upstart startup helped transform Cisco.
Why did Saeid invest so much of his time and energy to bring engineering into SSU? His love of engineering coupled with his love of teaching spurred him to think different and bring this technical discipline to an old world, liberal arts-only campus. He persevered, and in the end, both bachelor and master’s programs continue to evolve and bloom in the North Bay.
That same trait can be attributed to Don Green, who persevered to finally get the Green Music Hall built and open for business in 2012. In 2013, Don told me, “It took fifteen years and started off with $11 million and ended up costing $125 million . And to raise that money from the community allowed me to meet with every person that had some money over the 15 years and we ended up with a world-class music hall.”
 Don is British, which is why he ‘incorrectly’ spelled the word Fibre used in AFC’s formal name. In America this word is spelled Fiber.
 In August 2015, the Press Democrat reported on the cost of the Green Music Center, “The original plans, put forward in 1997, envisioned a $10 million choral auditorium. The finished venue, with 1,400-seat Weill Hall as its centerpiece, ended up costing $145 million.”