Marion Anderson, noted UCLA philanthropist, dies at 86

Marion Anderson, a noted Los Angeles philanthropist who gave more than $100 million to the UCLA graduate management school that now bears the Anderson name, has died.

She was 86, according to L.A. County public records.

Anderson died on Mother’s Day, May 14, the dean of the UCLA Anderson School of Management announced this week. She was the widow of billionaire Los Angeles businessman John Anderson.

“Marion believed philanthropy was about purpose and responsibility to the next generation, especially to those less fortunate,” Judy D. Olian, the school’s dean, wrote in a letter addressed to the “Anderson community.”

“That the school has lost its matriarch on Mother’s Day is especially poignant.”

Anderson was born and raised in New York City. She later moved to Los Angeles and married John Anderson in 1967, after his first wife died of cancer.

Following her husband’s death in 2011, she served as chairwoman of the family’s holding company, Topa Equities Ltd., and helped run the conglomerate he founded.

Topa, based in Century City, counts insurance, real estate and wholesale beverage distribution among its holdings.

Anderson, who the Los Angeles Business Journal estimated this year had a net worth of $3.91 billion, also helped groom the next generation of Southern California business leaders through generous donations.

She and her husband, who attended UCLA as an undergraduate on a scholarship, donated $15 million to the UCLA business school in 1987. The gift put the Anderson name on the institution, and at the time, the money was described as the largest donation by an individual to the University of California.

The couple later gave an additional $25 million, and in 2015, Anderson upped that, donating another $100 million to the school, making her among the 25 Americans who gave away the most money that year, according to a tally from Forbes.

“Philanthropy doesn’t have to be just about money. No matter how much or how little, get involved,” Anderson was quoted as saying, in Olian’s letter. “When you do, you really begin to understand the meaning of what philanthropy is, of what caring is. You get so much back.”

Anderson was generous beyond education as well. She gave to the YMCA, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and other organizations.

Since 1989, she served as a Children’s Hospital Trustee and “one of her favorite things to do” was to conduct walking tours of the hospital so people could meet the faculty and staff, said Paul S. Viviano, the hospital’s chief executive.

“Marion and her late husband John were fond of the saying, ‘Do the right thing.’ In this, her actions spoke louder than words ever could,” Viviano said in a statement.

Anderson is survived by relatives that include a sister and four children from her husband’s previous marriage and their 15 children and 24 grandchildren.

andrew.khouri@latimes.com

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A previous version of this story said that Marion Anderson grew up in Los Angeles. She was born and raised in New York City.
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