Marion Anderson, the billionaire philanthropist and chairwoman of Topa Equities Ltd. who died last week, left a lasting mark on the civic and educational landscape of Los Angeles
A longtime donor to UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, she and her husband, the late John Anderson, were also generous patrons of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where she served as board co-chairwoman for 13 years. She donated $50 million to the hospital in 2011, after which a new campus building was named the Marion and John E. Anderson Pavilion.
Lynda Boone Fetter, the hospital’s co-chairwoman, called Anderson a visionary in helping the institution meet its goals.
“She was a pioneer in her thought about taking care of insured children, uninsured children, that everybody would have equal access to great health care, and that no one be turned away,” said Fetter, who served on the board with Anderson for more than a decade.
Anderson, who grew up in Los Angeles, was married for 44 years to her husband, who died in 2011. Their family includes four children from his previous marriage, 15 grandchildren, and 24 great-grandchildren, according to a UCLA press release.
“She passed peacefully, adored by her family and the many friends who love and admire her,” said Judy Olian, dean of the Anderson school and a personal friend of Anderson. “That the school has lost its matriarch on Mother’s Day is especially poignant.”
The management school received a $100 million gift from Anderson in 2015, a follow-on to a $15 million donation to the institution from the Andersons in 1987.
Marion Anderson ranked No. 20 on the Business Journal’s 2017 list of Wealthiest Angelenos with a net worth of $3.91 billion. She and her children ran Century City’s Topa after the death of her husband, who founded the company.
Topa’s holdings include insurance firms, real estate, and auto dealerships, though its beer distribution business is most well-known.
UCLA is in the midst of constructing Marion Anderson Hall with funding from her $100 million gift. The donation is also providing long-term funding for students and faculty research.
The university’s Olian said she had become very close to Anderson in recent years and admired her grace, charm, elegance, and intelligence.
“She had a thirst and passion for life that was unstoppable,” Olian said in an internal UCLA announcement about Anderson’s death. “She was a fabulous storyteller to boot; how I looked forward to our movie, lunch or dinner dates!”
The Los Angeles Times, citing public records, said Anderson was 86 at the time of her death.
– Helen Zhao
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