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10/25/2017 19:27:04

Bill Ahmanson Elected as a New Caltech Trustee

The Ahmanson Foundation president says he is inspired by Caltech innovation and discovery

William (Bill) H. Ahmanson, president of The Ahmanson Foundation, has been elected to Caltech's Board of Trustees. The Los Angeles native studied political science, theater arts, and sculpture at Occidental College and, while still a student, began a career at Home Savings of America. He served there for 17 years, first as a teller and ultimately as chief underwriter for the bank's California residential lending division. He later worked in Union Bank's wealth management division before retiring from the industry to lead The Ahmanson Foundation. The philanthropic organization focuses on arts and humanities, education, health and medicine, and human services in Los Angeles County.

Ahmanson has received numerous awards and honors, including the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Cardinal's Award, the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations Joseph D. Helton Jr. Award for Leadership, and the Order of Saint Gregory the Great, a papal honor.

Ahmanson is one of three individuals to have joined the Board of Trustees, Caltech's governing body, in recent months. The Board is led by David L. Lee (PhD '74), chair, and Ronald K. Linde (MS '62, PhD '64), vice chair. It is currently composed of 45 trustees, 26 senior trustees, 19 life members, and one honorary life member.

Ahmanson recently reflected on his education and his interest in Caltech.

Tell us about a university professor who was particularly influential in your life.
Robert J. Janosik, an associate professor of politics at Occidental College, who died in 1992. He was my adviser and my constitutional law professor. He was engaging and thought provoking. The opinions of the students mattered, but so did the curriculum and the opinions of others.

What's the best advice you have ever received?
There is so much good advice that is incorporated into my being. The best advice in business is, perhaps, "Say no quickly." I have also found it is wise to pick your battles and to avoid making small issues bigger. Personally, I live by the only words of advice my father gave me: "Be fair."

How did you become interested in Caltech?
Hopefully the statute of limitations has run out! During water balloon raids while I was attending Occidental College, I was taken by the campus and have always been curious about the school. As I am getting older and more interested in learning, I find the discoveries made possible at Caltech fascinating. It seems that students and faculty have no idea what the following three words mean when uttered in this order: "Can't be done."

Written by Jennifer Torres Siders