Owen gets largest gift to a business school  printer 

The estates of Ralph "Peck" and Lulu Owen have given $33.5 million to the Owen Graduate School of Management, marking the largest single gift to a business school, Dean Martin S. Geisel announced last week.

The gift from the Owen estates, combined with others made while the Owens were living, brings the total contributions made to their namesake school to more than $62 million an amount thought to be the largest sum of gifts from a single source to a business school, according to the dean.

"This gift is the culmination of an extraordinary period in the Owen School's young history," said Vanderbilt Chancellor Joe B. Wyatt. "Ralph Owen's commitment and generosity helped gain recognition for the school as an innovative institution that produces creative and entrepreneurial managers of change.

"Ralph Owen was there in the beginning when the school was launched in 1969. He recognized early the value of its nontraditional curriculumwith its emphasis on a wholly integrated program with a strong global perspective. He championed the concept with his full stature as an influential business leader of his day and helped guarantee the school's future position among leading business institutions," Wyatt added.

The gift ensures the 26-year-old business school will "remain steadfast in its commitment to continuous improvement, adding distinguished faculty and further solidifying its position among the best schools of management in the world," said Geisel.

The gift is being used to support new faculty positions and increase financial aid for MBA students, the dean said. "In particular, two full tuition scholarships named for the Owens' children, Melinda Owen Bass and Ralph Owen Jr., have been approved," Geisel said. Plans are also under way to expand the school's facilities, he added.

As a Vanderbilt University senior in 1928, Ralph "Peck" Owen attracted professional baseball scouts and might have pursued a career in the major leagues had his father not intervened. Instead, Owen founded Equitable Securities Corp. in Nashville and built it into the second largest investment banking house in the nation when it purchased a controlling interest in American Express. He served as chairman of American Express from 1960-68, following Equitable's merger with that corporation.

Owen, whose service to Vanderbilt spanned nearly 60 years, was one of a core group of Vanderbilt alumni who were dedicated to the idea that the University needed a "clearly superior" school to stem the loss of talented students to established schools in the North.

The Vanderbilt University Graduate School of Management was born from an innovative strategic plan that included $1,000 pledges from several hundred business people in the Nashville community. Housed in a former funeral home, it opened its doors in 1969 with 10 students under the guidance of Dean Igor Ansoff, who had been recruited from the Carnegie Mellon School of Industrial Administration.

Owen's second dean, Samuel B. Richmond, joined in 1976 following a 30-year career at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business. Richmond, who worked closely with Ralph Owen and is the Ralph Owen Professor of Management Emeritus, said "there simply would not have been a school without him."

Posted 1/29/96 at 10:00 a.m.

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