Pepperdine MBA Program Receives Big Beckman Gift

Times Staff Writer

Arnold O. Beckman, the Corona del Mar philanthropist who made a fortune developing and marketing scientific instruments, has donated $6 million to the Pepperdine University School of Business & Management.

Beckman, who marked his 88th birthday Sunday, has used the Arnold O. and Mabel M. Beckman Foundation to distribute much of his personal wealth in recent years to aid the advancement of medical and scientific research. Publicly disclosed gifts from the foundation total more than $100 million.

This is the foundation’s first gift to a business school and is designed to advance Pepperdine’s efforts to train managers of technology, James R. Wilburn, Pepperdine’s vice president and dean of its business school, said in an interview. The school will also establish a center for the management of technology, Wilburn said.

“Mrs. Beckman and I decided quite some time ago to focus our energies on the advancement of science in such areas as medicine and biotechnology,” Beckman said in a statement. “However, we also realized that for science to serve the human race, programs must be in place to train people to manage these new technologies.


“We believe the entrepreneurial style of the Pepperdine business school, as well as its long history of working with technical people in improving their management skills, will provide a significant dimension to our larger concerns for the use of technology.”

Wilburn said the donation--the largest received by the business school--will be applied toward building a headquarters for the school on Pepperdine’s main campus in Malibu. The building will be named the Arnold O. and Mabel M. Beckman Management Center.

Technology management programs are rare in business schools, Wilburn said. “The only other program similar to this is at (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). There is no other graduate program. My personal prediction is that many more business schools will pay attention to this in the future,” he said. The area has been neglected because responsibilities have been divided between business and engineering schools, he said, adding “there has been very little marriage of the two.”

Scientist and Manager


The major thrust of Pepperdine’s program is to teach executives in technology-based companies the ways in which their companies are unique, Wilburn said. “Many have been slow to realize the degree to which technology requires new tactics for managing resources and marketing products and services,” he said. Technology companies, for example, require a larger proportion of their capital be devoted to research and development, he said. Thus, in times of scarcity, managers must devote much of their time and effort to reducing costs and organizing scientists effectively, he said.

Beckman made his mark as both a scientist and a manager. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame last year. A native of Cullom, Ill., he earned a doctorate in photochemistry in 1928 from Caltech in Pasadena.

While a Caltech chemistry professor, he founded Beckman Instruments to market an invention that enabled citrus processors to measure the level of acidity in lemon juice. Through the years, the company developed a number of other devices used for precision scientific measurements.

The Fullerton-based company has been a subsidiary of SmithKline Beckman Corp. of Philadelphia since SmithKline bought it in 1982.


In recent years, the Beckman Foundation has given several million dollars to university research projects, including $40 million to Caltech to establish a chemistry and biology research center. The center will receive an additional $10 million if it raises matching funds from other sources.

The foundation also donated $20 million to construct and operate the western headquarters of the National Academy of Sciences in Irvine.

Other Donations

University medical and scientific research programs have long been a favorite of philanthropists, but in recent years a number of business schools have been rewarded by successful entrepreneurs.


According to the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business, Harvard University Business School received the largest single donation. It got $30 million from a group of donors, led by John S. R. Shad, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Other large gifts include $15 million to UCLA from John E. Anderson, a Los Angeles attorney and entrepreneur.