Chapman College Honors a Big Benefactor

Chapman College knows who its heroes are--those who have made a significant contribution toward the success of the college--and they are revered.

Saturday night at the Anaheim Marriott, more than 1,200 guests attended “An American Celebration VI,” honoring George Argyros, chairman of Chapman’s board of trustees.

Argyros was joining the ranks of Warren Hancock, Betty Hutton Williams, Carl Karcher, the Irvine, Fluor, Knott and Segerstrom families and other notables that have been honored at the five previous celebrations.

A 35-minute musical production, “Let Freedom Sing,” produced and directed by Chapman professor Ron Thronson, was the entertainment highlight.


G. T. (Buck) Smith, Chapman’s president, opened the program on schedule with the introduction of Victoria Litherland, who sang the national anthem. The Rev. Dr. Dennis Savage gave the invocation.

Guests were still entering the ballroom as a multi-image slide presentation, “Enterprise ’86,” centering on the Chapman campus, appeared on the 30-foot-wide screen above the stage.

Smith announced that the evening was dedicated to Jack Duddy, chairman of the American Celebration, who did not attend the event.

“He literally gave his heart to the project,” said Smith, as he explained that Duddy had suffered a heart attack last year.


Murray Korda and his Monsignor Strings entertained during dinner.

Show time began after dinner, and William Hall, choir director and narrator of the show, described the efforts of the 300 students who spent the last three months preparing for the event. They were credited with building the sets, designing the costumes and spending countless hours in rehearsals, singing, dancing or playing in the orchestra.

Conductor John Koshak and the Chapman Symphony Orchestra opened the show with Carmen Dragon’s “Memories of America” and Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown.”

During the medley of Broadway show tunes, more than 2,000 slides were synchronized between scenes of early musicals on the screen and dancers re-creating a live version on stage.


A “this is your life” presentation showed early photos of Argyros growing up in Pasadena in 1942. According to the narration, Argyros was encouraged by Duddy, a family friend, to enroll at Chapman. Eddy Alberts, a professor, inspired him to enter the field of business. By 1959, Argyros had licenses in securities, real estate and insurance. In 1962 he began Arnel Development with an initial loan of $1,200. Associations with the Seattle Mariners and AirCal followed.

Comments by Friends

Gen. William Lyon, Robert Lineburger, Peter Ueberroth, Harry Rinker and Joni Smith, wife of the college’s president, were some of the friends shown on the screen and adding personal comments.

It was Rinker who pointed out something that Argyros didn’t do well in--backgammon. Principals of the evening’s production were called to the stage, joined by Argyros and his wife, Judi.


A portrait of Argyros, painted by Laguna Beach artist Robert Scharr, was presented to him by Chapman President Smith.

In accepting, Argyros said: “This evening doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to all of you and all of the college trustees. You have given your support, you have been there, you care. We all know how rewarding it is to give.”

According to Jean Runzo, the college’s associate vice president for development, Argyros became chairman of the Chapman trustees in 1976, when the college was in the midst of a serious financial crisis.

When Smith took over the presidency of Chapman in 1977, in his inaugural speech, he announced a $1-million challenge gift from an anonymous donor. The challenge was met with funds from other sources and the college was on the course to financial recovery.


Smith and Argyros launched a major campaign of $54 million, the largest effort undertaken by a college of its size.

Saturday night, Smith told of a phone call he received at “10 minutes to 3" on Friday from a trustee of the school, who made a major financial gift.

The contribution put the campaign over its goal. Exaggerating every digit, he announced that $56,125,237.00 had been raised.