Alumnus Gives Caltech a Wild Card

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Spring 2013 Issue of Techniques


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Richard Beatty (BS '77).

When Richard Beatty (BS '77) recently named Caltech in his will, he decided not to specify any purpose for the gift. He thinks that making a gift that Caltech can use in any way it wishes will maximize his gift's impact on research and education.

Beatty is quick to articulate the reasons for his confidence in Caltech. "We have all the horsepower of probably the best science and engineering faculty in the country," he says. "Divide that by the small number of students and you can come up with a figure of merit that says people have quick access to the very best." Beatty finds the faculty to be devoted to their disciplines and interested in their students. Across the board, professors involve students in active research programs. And he sees Caltech's interactivity and sense of community as essential preparation for leadership in technical fields. "Science and engineering are communal endeavors, whether in universities or industries or government laboratories," he says.

Beyond his objective reasons, Beatty has another motivation for giving: thankfulness. He has a long Caltech history—his mother and father, Suzanne van Dyke and Charles Beatty (MS '46), met playing table tennis in the Athenaeum basement in 1945. She was doing postdoctoral research in astronomy and he was an electrical engineering graduate student. They both valued Caltech's academic and educational resources; she volunteered for years, and he stayed close to Caltech too. He kept his Alumni Association card in his wallet long after he'd discarded everything else but a driver's license, one credit card, and some cash. Their children, Richard and his brother, David (BS '75, MS '76), each chose to study engineering at Caltech.

Several years after he graduated from Caltech, Richard Beatty studied the history and philosophy of science at Gonzaga and Notre Dame: "I wanted to peel the onion a couple of layers deeper and see what's actually going on underneath the mechanism of science and engineering, and how we've arrived where we are." That education has given him insight into how science and engineering evolve, a process he's had a front-row seat for through his long, continuing career at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Beatty has previously invested in Caltech, creating a matching gift challenge that helped Caltech renovate Ricketts House—his father's dorm—and build its Charles G. Beatty (MS '46) Computer Room, a resource he believes his father would have appreciated. Another matching gift amplified the class of 1977's 35th-reunion-year gift. Beatty is also a President's Circle Associate and a lifetime Alumni Association member.

He's now a Torchbearer too, through his gift by will, which he expects to stimulate vital research and education. "Ultimately, it's up to the president, the officers, and the trustees of the school to decide how funds are used. They've done a good job so far, so I'm perfectly willing to make a completely unrestricted bequest. These are the people who know best how to make the future happen," he says. "It just makes sense to keep Caltech going for the future. It has made a tremendous difference so far."