Along Chapman University’s decades-long path to greatness, many of the school’s greatest achievements include a familiar name.
In 1975, Chapman was on rocky financial footing. Businessman and Trustee George L. Argyros ’59 guaranteed a bank loan, renegotiated another loan and secured another line of credit from the Disciples of Christ Church. He also enlisted other Trustees’ support, and Chapman stayed open – and flourished.
More than two decades later, Chapman’s business school was named for Argyros, the grandson of Greek immigrants who became a prolific entrepreneur, philanthropist and U.S. ambassador thanks to his work ethic and commitment to service.
“Dare to dream. Take advantage of the ability to think big and reach high. Be willing to take risks. Fight courageously for the principles you believe in,” Argyros said at the business school’s naming dedication in 1999.
And on Sept. 22, the George L. Argyros School of Business and Economics expanded into the George L. Argyros College of Business and Economics, thanks to the Argyros family’s latest gift of $10 million. This shift from the Argyros School to a college provides an umbrella for schools dedicated to various areas of research and teaching, like the new Burra School of Accounting and Finance.
“Chapman and the Argyros College mean so much to my parents and our entire family,” said Trustee Lisa Argyros ’07. “We are proud to support the Argyros College as it continues to rise in the rankings.”
The $10 million gift will support Argyros’ continued climb toward the nation’s top 50 business schools. Argyros School had risen more than 25 places in the rankings over five years, and last May jumped from No. 72 to No. 60 in the Best Business Schools rankings by U.S. News & World Report.
“This gift will propel Argyros into one of the top business schools in the nation by enabling us to continue offering excellent, personalized education in business and economics that aligns with industry needs,” said Chapman President Daniele C. Struppa.
The gift is “a further commitment to the excellence and the pathway that the Argyros School has been on, and it will have a positive effect on students in perpetuity,” Argyros Dean Henrik Cronqvist said.
The gift boosts Chapman’s Strategic Plan goal to raise $500 million through its Inspire campaign and to support academic excellence. More than $357 million has been raised.
“Chapman University would not be what it is today without George Argyros, and we are so grateful to George and Julia and the entire Argyros family for their incredible generosity,” said Executive Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer Matt Parlow. “We are thrilled that our business college will continue carrying their vision and name into the future.”
George Argyros was Chapman’s longest-serving chair of the Board of Trustees, from 1976 to 2001. Chapman’s business school was named for him in 1999 and other campus facilities bear his and his wife’s names, including Argyros Forum, Argyros Global Citizens Plaza and the Julianne Argyros Fitness Center.
Those honors came after decades of hard work that started as a teenager.
Argyros worked full time in high school – including a stint as a paperboy – to help support his family. He wasn’t planning to go to college, but Trustee Jack Duddy ’42 and Professor Emeritus Paul Delp ’28 convinced him to attend Chapman.
“[George was an] excellent business student. You came to expect brilliance from him, and you were not the least bit surprised when he delivered,” said friend and Associate Professor Eddie Alberts.
Argyros put himself through college by working as a department manager in a grocery store. During his senior year, he met Julia at a snack shop near campus and they married three years later.
After graduating from Chapman in 1959 with a degree in business and economics, George Argyros managed a grocery store in Palm Springs. He got a real estate license and borrowed $1,200 to go into business. In 1968, he founded real estate brokerage firm Arnel & Affiliates.
Arnel created about two million square feet of commercial, office and industrial properties in Southern California and owned 5,500 apartments.
In 1981 Argyros became a founding partner in Westar Capital, a private equity firm specializing in investments in middle-market companies. He and retired Air Force Gen. William Lyon bought airline company Air California, which they sold as AirCal to American Airlines in 1987. From 1981 to 1989, Argyros owned the Seattle Mariners.
In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Argyros as U.S. ambassador to Spain and Andorra. Argyros served as ambassador until 2004.
Argyros served on corporate boards and was honored by various organizations for his public service. As Chapman Board of Trustees chair, he oversaw campus transformations including the establishment of Dodge College of Film and Media Arts and Fowler School of Law. He received an honorary doctorate from Chapman in 2005.
In 2017 he was named a distinguished alumnus and given the Bert C. Williams Lifetime Service Award, a distinction given less than 20 times in the university’s long history.
In 2019, the Argyros family reunited with Bush to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the naming of Argyros School, where they gave a surprise $10 million gift to the school’s endowment.
“It now looks like you’re stuck with us for a long time,” Julia Argyros said at the event.
Julia has served on boards of several organizations and nonprofits, and has received many awards for her philanthropic work.
In 2015, she received an honorary doctorate from Chapman’s College of Performing Arts. A theater and ballroom dancing enthusiast, she performed with President Emeritus Jim Doti in Chapman Celebrates productions.
She has been active in Women of Chapman, which supports scholarships, programs and projects at Chapman, and served on Chapman’s President’s Cabinet. She and George brought many high-profile guests to campus, including Gen. Colin Powell, Spanish President José Maria Aznar, President Gerald Ford and presidents George W. and George H.W. Bush.
Cronqvist said the Argyros’ family’s latest gift recognizes the business college’s past success and accelerates its future success. What is now Argyros College has risen in the rankings as the MBA program has become more selective and students have successful careers after graduating, he said.
“George Argyros’ contributions have been the source through which we have been able to build and create so many opportunities for our students so that we can have many more George Argyros-types of students in the future, who can be successful in business and then give back to the university,” Cronqvist said.
The gift was announced at the launch of Argyros’ Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series, where Earvin “Magic” Johnson was the inaugural speaker.
Johnson answered questions posed by Cronqvist, and took time afterward to answer two students’ questions about how to conduct themselves in business.
“I’m a risk taker … if I see that everything is lining up and we can make some money and make a difference, I do it,” he told one student. “It has to be both – I don’t make a deal unless we can make a difference. Community impact is very important.”
He told another student to “quit worrying about what others say – you have to believe in you. You keep showing up to work, doing your job. You’re smart, you have to love yourself first.”
Johnson called two boys up to meet him and was on stage when the Argyros’ gift was announced.
The speaker series will have two to three speakers each semester sharing their career trajectories. The next lecture is Nov. 9, with the guest to be announced.
Johnson’s launch of Argyros’ lecture series continues the college’s history of supporting entrepreneurs like its namesake. Johnson – who is considered the greatest point guard in NBA history – is chair and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises. He is a co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Sparks, the Washington Commanders, the Los Angeles Football Club and eSports franchise Team Liquid. He continues to expand his influence through his many businesses, which include EquiTrust Life Insurance Company, and SodexoMAGIC, a food service and facilities management company. He is one of the leading investors in minority-owned technology companies that include Uncharted Power, a power and data infrastructure technology company.