Beckman Honored as Humanitarian of the Year : Medical Instruments Manufacturer Feted at YMCA Dinner

Dessert came first at the North County YMCA dinner honoring its Humanitarian of the Year, Arnold O. Beckman.

A giant mocha mousse cake aglow with sparklers (but not meant to be eaten at that time) was rolled into the Emerald of Anaheim ballroom Saturday night to the tune of “California, Here I Come.” The cake commemorated a triple-header celebration: the 50th anniversary of Beckman Industries Inc., the 60th wedding anniversary of Beckman and his wife Mabel, and Beckman’s 85th birthday.

Only 300 attended the banquet chaired by Irvin Chapman, who expected 600; $25,000 was raised to equip and maintain the Arnold O. Beckman Playground in Fullerton.

An audio-visual slide presentation of youths at the county “Y,” coordinated by program director Jan Kerr, was screened along with a film titled “With Force and Vision.” The latter depicted the substantial contributions made to the medical field by Beckman Instruments, including various medical diagnostic instruments for measuring blood sugar and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) components. Among more recent examples was a quartz photoelectric spectrometer for automatic chemical analysis.


‘Get Ready’

The evening’s program also included Santa Ana-born musical comedy star John Raitt, whose father, Arch Raitt, was a longtime executive with the North Orange County “Y.” (John Raitt is the father of blues-rock singer Bonnie Raitt). “I owe it to my Dad that I’m here tonight,” Raitt said after singing selections from “Oklahoma,” “Man of La Mancha” and “Carousel.”

When keynote speaker E. H. (Hubie) Clark, president and chairman of Baker International Corp. and a former president of the Los Angeles YMCA, began his speech with: “OK, Arnold, Mabel, get ready,” he meant it.

In his 40-minute dissertation, Clark described Beckman as “always two steps ahead of the rest of us. He sees in his mind what will happen a year from now. (He is) a unique person who changed the course of destiny.”


Clark referred to notes taken from Beckman’s notebook when Beckman was a professor at Cal Tech in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s. Quoting from the notebook, Clark said: “ ‘Items that if worked out, could prove valuable. A method of using electrons instead of light to record and produce sound on film without distortion; a spring arrangement on car windows so that they can go up and down by push button, and a timing device to turn things off and on.’ ”

A Forward Thinker

“Don’t forget,” Clark said, “when these were written.”

After awards were presented by “Y” Chairman Dr. Royce Rutaine, Fullerton Mayor Buck Catlin, Sen. Edward R. Royce (R-Anaheim) and County Board of Supervisors Chairman Tom Riley, and congratulatory letters from Gov. George Deukmejian and Sen. Pete Wilson were read, Beckman approached the podium.


“Hubie,” Beckman said, “I’m particularly sorry you cut your remarks so short. I could have listened to you for another hour.”

Beckman remembered advice he’d received years ago regarding “flowery” introductions.

“Imagine it (flattery) as a gift of very expensive perfume,” he said. “Enjoy it, use it sparingly or lavishly, whatever you like, but for heaven’s sake, don’t swallow it.”

Beckman pointed out that he didn’t have the advantages of a “Y” in the small town in Illinois where he grew up. The “Y” played a far more important part in 1918, when he was in the Marine Corps and stationed at Brooklyn Navy Yard.


Married 60 Years

“It was Thanksgiving,” Beckman said. “I’d already had one dinner and was ordered to go have another at the “Y” in Green Point (Brooklyn). It seems the Red Cross ladies prepared a huge dinner for the wounded Marines home from France. But there weren’t enough wounded Marines, so we were ordered to fill the chairs. That’s where I met Mabel, and we’ve been married 60 happy years.”

The slogan of Beckman Instruments’ 50th Anniversary, “Golden Past--Golden Future,” was submitted by two Beckman employees, a librarian in Fullerton and a personnel manager in Munich.

Referring to the logo, Beckman said: “Enough of the ‘Golden Past.’ ”


He looked instead to the future.

“Increasing developments of artificial intelligence,” Beckman predicted. “Robotics, for example. And that should cause a few people to squirm in their chairs when they think of robots taking over the functions they now perform.”