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Benjamin Epstein

College Bash Is Unabashed Flag-Waver

November 05, 1985|Benjamin Epstein

Thanks to Bruce Springsteen, flag-waving has once again become trendy. But at Chapman College, which is gearing up for its 125th anniversary in March, it's always been trendy. So at the school's American Celebration V Saturday night in the Great Hall of the Anaheim Marriott, it was simply heart-throbbing, moist-eyed business as usual: The flag just kept on waving. And waving.

Nobody's complaining, of course. Indeed, a little unabashed patriotism seemed just the thing the weekend before voting day--today--for which a paltry turnout of 12% of the county's registered voters is predicted.

And unabashed it was, from the 10-foot, gold spray-painted Statue of Liberty adorning the reception area to the quasi-contemporary a cappella arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner," sung by Clazz at the beginning of dinner, to the evening's finale--"America the Beautiful," sung by the Chapman Concert Choir with slides of America at its most beautiful providing a sumptuous backdrop. (Also sumptuous was a dinner for 1,100 that included smoked salmon, melon balls in port, lobster, filet mignon and chanterelles.)

Chapman trustees chairman George Argyros seemed to be waxing poetic in his printed introduction to "Discover the Future," a multimedia production mounted by students with state-of-the-art aspirations: He described the production as a tribute to three Americans, "visionaries each one . . . who have made a tremendous impact on the way we harvest our fields, build our homes, and even repair human hearts."

But those weren't just flowery words.

Francis Griset, who bought his first 125 acres of farm land in Santa Ana half a century ago, designed labor-saving farm equipment; Life magazine described one of his inventions as a "Wow of a Plow."

William Lyon, chairman and chief executive officer of AirCal and retired Air Force major general, has through the William Lyon Co. also been the No. 1 home builder in Southern California for four consecutive years.

Heart Valve Developer

Warren Hancock, among other entrepreneurial accomplishments, developed the porcine heart valve (made from pig tissue), which has affected the lives of more than 100,000 heart patients.

During the cocktail reception, the soft-spoken Lyon said the tribute wasn't really for either America or the three men; it was a tribute to an idea--free enterprise--and Griset agreed.

"(Free enterprise) is what we have to have if we're going to compete in the world and be an example to the free nations," said the 74-year-young Griset, who has lived with his wife, Betty, in the house they built in Santa Ana since 1946. "We can't solve all the problems in the world today, but at least with the free enterprise system we have a chance."

According to Griset, the Chapman College Enterprise Institute--now located on campus but planned for a location adjacent to the Nixon Library in San Clemente--is Chapman's "handle" on that idea. (James Roosevelt is the institute's executive director.)

Hancock was instrumental in the launching of the institute; he has funded a chair for free enterprise.

"Our students need to be willing to go out and tilt at the windmills," Hancock said. "They need to be able to look at opportunities, to take some risks, to go out and say, 'OK, I can make it. I can do it.' "

Hancock, who sold Hancock Laboratories in 1978, said: "I don't have a company at the moment per se, but we're working on it."

Net Worth Quadrupled

As befits Chapman's enterprising spirit, the school's net worth has quadrupled since 1976 from $6.6 million to more than $24 million; its permanent endowment has increased eightfold. Chapman President G.T. (Buck) Smith (whose wife Joni was still aglow over the Labeque sisters' recent two-piano concert at Chapman) talked about the august institution's curriculum.

"At Chapman we blend liberal arts and professional preparation," Smith said. "You're not just locked into the specific issues of today. You learn how to solve problems, how to assess the situation, how to make decisions--how, if you will, to manage change. We hope that entrepreneurial spirit positions the students to deal with some of the issues that have eluded us.

"Locally, they're going to face such issues as transportation and water shortages, and in a very real way. In a larger sense, of course, there are the problems of poverty, the aging population, child abuse . . . . We at Chapman have a very fond hope that, if we could sit at the year 2010 right now and write the history of how we got through these next 25 years, we'd see that this generation solved at least some of the problems we left them."

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