Former Irvine Co. President Will Teach at UCI : Executive in New Role--Professor

Times Staff Writer

Ray Watson, former Irvine Co. president and chairman of Walt Disney Productions, has had plenty of experience presenting his ideas in corporate board rooms over the years.

But soon, and admittedly with some nervousness, the 58-year-old veteran business executive and Newport Beach resident will begin testing his mettle as college professor.

When UC Irvine starts its fall quarter next week, Watson will be on the faculty of the Graduate School of Management. He will share his knowledge about business, real estate and the inner workings of corporate boards of directors with students and academicians. In addition, Watson will lead seminars on campus for the public.

Watson has agreed to accept a Regents Professorship, one of two such appointments made statewide by the University of California Regents for the coming academic year.

Watson’s one-year teaching appointment was requested by the UCI Graduate School of Management, which lately has been trying new ways to strengthen its links with the business community. In another move, the school last week inaugurated an Executive MBA program designed for managers in mid-career.


Chance to ‘Test Theory’

Judy Rosener, assistant dean of the Graduate School of Management who has known Watson many years, said she suggested his name because she believed he would give students a rare opportunity to “test theory against reality.”

Rosener said the the timing of Watson’s appointment “was perfect” because Watson “has just come through a Disney takeover,” which has added to his knowledge of board-room maneuvers.

Watson, who has been on the board of directors of Walt Disney Productions since 1974, chaired the entertainment conglomerate from May, 1983, to September, 1984, a time he describes as “a short but turbulent period.” During his chairmanship, there were two unsuccessful attempts by outsiders to seize control of Disney, and top management went through a shake-up.

Having resigned as Disney’s chairman, Watson, who still heads the executive committee of the Disney board of directors, has more free time than he has been accustomed to. He said he hopes that the UCI appointment will give him an opportunity “to think out, write out and communicate out thoughts I have accumulated over the years in regard to business and real estate.”

Watson said he will return whatever money he receives for teaching to the university. “I am not doing it for pay,” he said.

Member of Four Boards

Watson sits on the boards of directors of four corporations: Burbank-based Walt Disney Productions; the Irvine Co. and Pacific Mutual Life Insurance Co., both of Newport Beach, and Mitchell Development and Energy Co. in Houston.

Watson is a graduate of UC Berkeley, where he received a master’s degree in architecture. He joined the Irvine Co. in 1960 as manager of the company’s planning department. He led the team that wrote the blueprints for turning the company’s 83,000 acres of rolling ranch lands into one of the nation’s first and most successful master-planned communities.

Watson rose through the ranks of the Irvine Co. and served as president of the land development company from 1973 to 1977.

Watson’s first public seminar, scheduled for the evening of Nov. 19 at the University Club, is entitled “Irvine: Dream vs. Reality.”