Famous Figures, Hidden Gems

Much has been made lately of the inequality of income in our nation. It’s said that the millions of dollars made by a select few smack of a failed economic system – a system that rewards the “haves” rather than the “have nots.”

Such thinking ignores a basic tenet of a free- market economy. As individuals amass personal wealth, they also provide benefits for others. The problem is that these benefits are often hidden, while their personal gains are not.

Recently, Orange County Business Journal published its annual OC’s Wealthiest list, estimating the wealth of certain community members. Beyond what those on the list take in, I’d like to recognize what they give back. I’m not thinking here of their generous philanthropy, to which I can personally attest. Much of their philanthropy, like their wealth, is public information. Instead, I’m thinking of the benefits these individuals provide that enhance the quality of our lives.

Consider all the people who live in Irvine –  a city that receives well-deserved plaudits for its quality of life. How many people know that Irvine residents benefit not only from the vision of Donald Bren but from his laser-like execution of that vision?

During this time when housing opportunities have become so dear, think of all the homes created by entrepreneurs like George Argyros ’59 and Harry Rinker.

How many people know that the price at the gasoline pump is lower because of an innovative way of cleaning platinum used in the refining process – a process devised by Paul Musco?

What about all of the jobs created by businesses that occupy leased industrial space provided by Dale Fowler ’58? Imagine my surprise when I went to my first lesson in turning wood bowls and saw a sign on the building: “A Fowler Property.”

Ten years ago, on a different continent, my son Adam and I had our blood tested at a base camp on Mount Aconcagua, ensuring sufficient oxygen levels to summit a 22,800-foot peak. I was amazed to learn that the medical device used for the test was designed and manufactured in Orange County by the company Joe Kiani founded – Masimo. Think of the countless people whose lives have been saved or made better by Joe’s company.

Ron Simon is perhaps best known for the program he created that helps disadvantaged high school students attend college. This is well-deserved recognition, but how many people know that most of the cabinetry they buy from Home Depot was manufactured in the U.S. using Ron’s innovative cost-cutting design?

Because of the Business Journal list, we know of Ron’s wealth and that of 47 others. But how many people realize that the number next to each name is like a small lens that can be magnified many times to see the far greater benefits these individuals provide to us?

Twenty-six years ago, when I was appointed president of Chapman University, George Argyros was my role model, my guide, my mentor and my friend. We would sit together and talk about the things we might do to make Chapman a better place, and he would often relate examples of his apartment company, Arnel. George didn’t dwell on his company’s bottom line; he didn’t  talk about Arnel’s occupancy rate or tell me how many apartment units his company owned. Rather, he excitedly explained how we could advance Chapman by doing the same kinds of things he worked very hard to do at Arnel, how we could make the campus a place where people wanted to spend their time, a place that beat the competition, hands down.

In that spirit, we should celebrate the members of OC’s Wealthiest. Their personal wealth is a testament to something nobler and more enduring – the priceless value of bettering the lives of others.

Jim Doti, Ph.D., is president emeritus of Chapman University. A version of this column ran previously in Orange County Business Journal.

Display image at top/Advances in pulse oximetry have a daily impact on lives, thanks to Masimo and its CEO, Joe Kiani. (Photo courtesy of Masimo)

This story appeared in the fall 2017 issue of Chapman Magazine.

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