John E. Anderson, namesake of the UCLA Anderson School of Management and a prominent California businessman, died at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on Friday. He was 93.
The cause of death was pneumonia, a family spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times.
Anderson, a UCLA alumnus, was a major source of financial support for the Anderson School. His first gift in 1987 of $15 million lay the foundation for the school and in April, he and his wife, Marion, donated $25 million, Dean Judy Olian said.
Anderson’s philanthropic support of the university stemmed from his own time as a student. After growing up in Minnesota, he attended UCLA on a hockey scholarship and graduated with a degree in business administration.
“He was always grateful to UCLA for giving him his start ““ he never forgot it,” said Alfred Osborne Jr., senior associate dean of the Anderson School.
The April gift will further the school’s growth by funding initiatives like research, curriculum and student support, according to a statement from the university.
In addition to his financial support of the university, Anderson also shared his years of entrepreneurial experience with students in the classroom.
For many years, Anderson taught a class on tax planning, which drew from his own knowledge of forming businesses and managing assets. An important topic was Anderson’s own belief in doing business honorably, Olian said.
“He loved to win, but he loved to win the right way,” she said.
But his interaction with students was not limited to the classroom.
During his almost daily walks around the neighborhood, Anderson would come through the business school and frequently said hello to students, many of whom did not realize who he was until they compared him to his bust near the school’s entrance, Olian said.
Anderson also served as an adviser to many young entrepreneurs and would sit with them to discuss their plans, Osborne said. If they needed more advice, he was readily available by phone.
“He was generous with his wealth and his time,” Osborne said. “When he was needed, he was there.”
Olian also spoke of his humble nature, remembering the first time she met him. Though Anderson was listed at No. 153 on Forbes’ list of the 400 richest Americans, he picked her up in a simple car and took her to the country club for lunch. While there, he personally greeted every person he saw.
“(The Andersons) were almost like parents to me,” she said. “He was a remarkable person and someone I was honored to be close to.”
Anderson was born Sept. 12, 1917 in Minnesota. He was the son of a barber and came to UCLA in 1936. After graduating four years later, Anderson continued his education at the Harvard Business School, where he received a master’s in business, and at the Loyola Law School Los Angeles, where he earned a law degree.
In accordance with his business ambitions, he founded Topa Equities, Ltd., a holding company that owns more than 33 businesses involved in agriculture, insurance, wholesale beverage distribution, real estate and automotive dealerships. As president of the company, he had a strong work ethic and was even in the office the day he died, according to a statement to the community from Olian.
Anderson was committed to UCLA and served as the first and long-term chairman of the Anderson Board of Visitors, the school’s advisory board. He later received the UCLA Medal, the university’s highest honor, in 1995 and was named a distinguished alumnus in 2002.
In addition to his support of UCLA, he also contributed to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where a pavilion was recently named in his and his wife’s honor.
He was also involved with the YMCA of Metropolitan Los Angeles, Saint John’s Hospital and Health Center Foundation and Claremont McKenna College, where he served as a trustee.
He is survived by his wife of 44 years, Marion; daughters Sue and Judy; sons Bill and John; 15 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.
Details about an on-campus memorial service are still to be announced.