Don Booth at Argyros School of Business & Economics
Argyros School of Business & Economics

» Honoring Dr. Don Booth

"I know no one who has done more as a mentor and friend to our students, inspiring them to reach their heights." - Chapman President Emeritus James L. Doti

Don Booth, Ph.D., is a professor of business and economics at Chapman University. One of the longest-serving faculty members at the University, he began teaching at Chapman in 1959, celebrated his 50th anniversary as a Chapman University professor in 2009 and retired from teaching in May 2013.

Dr. Booth is famous for coming to the rescue of students in need of a little extra help with the cost of books, travel expenses, conference registration fees, etc. He’s been accepting donations to his Don Booth Philanthropy Fund for years. But now more than ever, we need your help to grow and sustain his fund for generations to come. You have the opportunity to continue Dr. Booth’s work and help to make a positive impact on a student’s experience at Chapman. Every gift makes a difference. How did Dr. Booth shape your life? How will you shape others?

Toggle Section

Golden Moments

53 years into his temporary stay, Dr. Don Booth continues to inspire students and enhance the Chapman experience.

Dr. Don Booth’s start at Chapman is ironic. The Larry Parlett Professor of Economics, who celebrates 55 years on campus, never expected to stay longer than a couple of years. "Chapman gave me all the things I was really looking for," Dr. Booth said. While Booth has earned distinction for his long tenure, he is esteemed for his practical approach to teaching as well as a deep interest in the success of students who then go on to become mentors themselves

Dr. Booth came west for school, having grown up in Northern Minnesota among a population of 700, intending to study law. It wasn't his enlistment in the Marine Corps or his marriage to Louise Booth that diverted him from his Juris Doctor, but rather his love for economics and a few inspiring teachers along the way.

Dr. Booth sees now that the persuasiveness of teachers like UCLA Professor Armen Alchian, Ph.D., foreshadowed the way he would influence so many others. Set on being a teacher, he removed the litany of memorization from his lessons. Instead, he helped students apply what they learned in the classroom to everything in their lives.

"A really great teacher is one who changes your life. It’s not exactly about what they taught," Dr. Booth said.

"I know no one who has done more as a mentor and friend to our students, inspiring them to reach their heights," Chapman President James L. Doti said. Dr. Booth’s students find it easy to relate to a man they say sees beyond age and ethnicity.

A few years ago, after several years with no contact, Dr. Booth and former student John Sanders ’66 reunited. Sanders sat in his professor's office and listened to a recording of a speech he could not identify. It turned out to be Martin Luther King Jr.’s address at Chapman in December 1961. After listening to Dr. Booth remember the night Dr. King spoke, Sanders praised Booth's ability to respect and encourage the thoughts of a man such as Dr. King before many others did.            

"He's one of those people that God has given a gift. … He has a reservoir of empathy for other people," Sanders said. Sanders, an attorney, has grasped the importance of empathy and carries it with him in his adult life. He takes the time to mentor young people at the YMCA. “I use the same tactics now that he did as a mentor,” Sanders said. “Conversations are a way to impart knowledge.”

Dr. Booth has done far more for Chapman than instruction. Beyond having held nearly every administrative position on campus, he is also a man of firsts: the first chairman of the faculty, the first faculty chair in the Argyros School of Business and Economics, the first to coordinate a lecture series that drew guests such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. King, and the first to take advantage of study-abroad opportunities during interterm.

Mementos of his travels with students to Russia, China, Mexico and elsewhere decorate his Beckman Hall office, where diplomas and awards might otherwise hang.

A photo of Tibetan children crowded in a small space they call home reminds him that there are people who live with so little. These images become a lesson for all the students who frequent his office. The photos reflect the pursuits of a man passionate about global citizenship – and about helping students achieve all they seek in their studies, their careers and their lives.

The Great Elephant Race of 1962

At first glance, no one ever thought Chapman University would be trunk-to-trunk in an elephant race against USC in the spring of 1962. Once Don Booth stepped forward to be Chapman’s Elephant Coach, everyone knew history would be made. Don found Big Babe the elephant, 3,000 pounds of fun and seventy seven years old, on a ranch in Corona. Big Babe was already a celebrity, appearing with Elizabeth Taylor in the movie Elephant Walk and in the movie, Around the World in Eighty Days. Not sure if Big Babe could actually run, the students soon nicknamed her “Calvin Coolidge”, or C.C. for short, in case she “did not choose to run” as President Coolidge did when asked if he would seek further time in the White House.

There at Dumbo Downs on the newly formed California State Fullerton campus that 1962 spring day, were 15 elephants including entrants from Long Beach State, Harvard, OCC, University of Nevada, University of Washington and USC. Racing rules were developed and the U.S. Marine Corp was there to add flair to this momentous occasion. The race was hectic. Spectators and elephants alike had no idea what to expect. Unlike racehorses, the elephants were unaccustomed to racing, and certainly not in a straight line.

The trumpet sounded and the elephants were off in a frenzy. Actually some of them were in a frenzy before the start including the entrant from Santa Monica City College, a baby elephant painted pink. Chapmanites yelled and applauded in disbelief. Calvin could actually run! Calvin did run and she won the race. Not so, the hosts announced, “Harvard, first place!” Eventually, the students were so thrilled to have competed against big old Harvard they felt they had to let Harvard win. We still beat USC.

For his efforts, Dr. Booth was chosen Panther of The Week and honored for his devoted enthusiasm for Elephant Week.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

One of the fundraisers for the Club Football team was a push-up contest on campus. Don Booth, whose son David was on the team, felt he should make a contribution, so he entered the contest. Not being as young and slim as in his early days, no one would expect him to do more than very few push-ups, so he practiced at home and arrived at the contest wearing appropriate gym clothes. Seeing George Argyros on campus going to a board meeting, Don asked, “How much will you donate to the Football Club for each push-up I do?” No doubt thinking he had no need to worry, Argyros called back, “Ten dollars for each.”

Time came for Don to get down and push. He did ten – that was good for him, the watchers figured: he did twenty ----“Ah, he’s pretty good”! But he went on, and the crowd started counting. Not until he reached eighty push-ups did Don stop. Yes, Argyros paid and the college newspaper reported that the contest brought in $2,500 to the club.

Don, again, was leading by example.