Marion Anderson, one of the UCLA Anderson School of Management’s biggest contributors and namesake philanthropists, died May 14 in Los Angeles.
“Her transformative vision … helped the UCLA Anderson School of Management become one of the most respected business schools in the world,” said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block in a message to the campus community. “Our community has lost a great champion, and I have lost a dear friend.”
UCLA named the Anderson School of Management in honor of Marion Anderson’s husband John, who died in 2011, when the couple made their first gift to the school in 1987. In 2015, Marion Anderson gifted $100 million to the management school, the largest donation it has ever received.
John Anderson graduated from UCLA in 1940 with a degree in business administration, and went on to found Topa Equities Ltd. After her husband’s death, Anderson became chairman of Topa Equities and continued to be involved in philanthropy, said Judy Olian, dean of the Anderson School of Management.
“She became very impassioned about the school because she saw how it was changing lives, but also in part because she was advancing her beloved husband’s legacy,” Olian said. “She got extremely involved with all kinds of events, and students would often see her on campus.”
Anderson also donated to other institutions in LA and elsewhere, including the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. A wing in the hospital bears John and Marion’s names.
Marion Anderson’s $100 million gift to the management school in 2015 will fund student financial aid and fellowships, faculty and research funding and a new building at the school that will be named Marion Anderson Hall.
William Cockrum, an adjunct professor of finance at the management school, said John Anderson attended UCLA on a scholarship and had little money as a student, which motivated him and Marion Anderson to give back to the university.
“Marion carried on John’s idea behind (the philanthropy), that you have to give back and make a difference,” Cockrum said. “She was always exquisite, and a joy to be around.”
Anderson grew up in Los Angeles and was married to her late husband for 44 years. Olian said she was first and foremost dedicated to her family, which includes 15 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.
“She was the most charming person, extremely well-informed about everything, and she was almost frugal about spending money on herself,” Olian said. “Marion was totally unassuming despite everything she did and accomplished, and she was completely grounded.”
Olian said she would often go to lunch with Anderson at a simple restaurant Anderson loved. On one occasion, Anderson met a student who had attended the management school. The student thanked her profusely for everything she had given the school, Olian said.
“It was after this that she told me she’d made the decision to make the gift of $100 million to the school,” Olian said. “It was so classic of Marion to tell me this, on this simple afternoon, when she saw the impact of UCLA on a young person’s life and said, ‘I’m going to create this opportunity for so many others.’”
Block said Anderson believed she had a responsibility to help the next generation, particularly those who are most vulnerable.
“That the school has lost its matriarch on Mother’s Day is especially poignant,” said Olian in a letter to the campus community. “But John and Marion’s legacy will forever shine brightly, guide us and inspire us … always.”