A champion of public art and educational excellence, Chapman University Trustee Ross Escalette passed away in September after a long illness.
“Ross was a beloved friend of Chapman and, as a board member, was an indefatigable force, inspired by his love for higher education and his abiding dedication to philanthropy,” said Chapman President Jim Doti.
Along with his wife, Phyllis, Ross Escalette made many gifts to Chapman, including in 2010, when the couple founded the Phyllis and Ross Escalette Permanent Collection of Art at the university. Their dedicated stewardship has given focus to the university’s growing and distinguished collection of contemporary art by many of today’s most acclaimed painters, sculptors, printmakers and photographers.
Ross Escalette delighted in seeing students and visitors encounter the collection’s more than 700 works, which are exhibited in the highly trafficked halls of classroom buildings and offices on campus.
“It exposes students to real art every day,” he said. “It’s a unique feature Chapman has that very few institutions can match.”
In his business life, Escalette was “the epitome of a great American entrepreneur,” Doti said. He was founder and president of Auburn Brass and went on to launch Brasstech/Newport Brass of Santa Ana, a respected maker of faucets and plumbing fixtures that employed more than 500 people. After selling the company and trying a life of retirement, Escalette re-entered the world of high-end brass fixtures as chairman of a new and highly successful company, Escalette, LLC.
“Standing on the sidelines just wasn’t in his nature,” Doti said.
Escalette’s passing came as a shock to the Chapman community, as he had kept his illness hidden from all but his closest family members. The family conducted a private burial at sea.
“We like to give to organizations where we can see the funds being put to immediate and visible use,” Escalette wrote in a forward to Chapman’s 2011 commemorative book The Chapman University Collections. “Chapman University and the art collection fill that requirement in every way.”
Doti suggested that a fitting tribute to Escalette would be to stroll the campus and contemplate the works in the collection he helped make possible.
“This is perhaps his greatest memorial,” Doti said, “because he knew that public art, especially on a university campus, has the power to spark our dreams and enrich our intellectual lives.”