Industrialist, philanthropist, Republican leader and USC trustee Henry Salvatori passed away Sunday, July 6, at St. John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica. He was 96 and had lived in the Bel Air district of Los Angeles.
Born in the village of Corfinio, Italy, in 1901, Salvatori immigrated to the United States with his family in 1906 and grew up on a farm in southern New Jersey. His father was a wholesale grocer.
A pioneer in the oil exploration industry, Salvatori founded Western Geophysical Company of America, one of the world’s largest petroleum-exploration concerns. He was the driving force behind the development of reflection seismic methods of oil exploration that became industry standards and brought him international recognition as a pioneer in the field.
He was a pioneer in the boardroom as well when, in 1951, he instituted a corporate profit-sharing fund – reasoning that his employees should feel like family.
Salvatori led the firm from its founding in 1933 until its merger with Litton Industries in 1961. He retired in 1969 as chairman and chief executive officer of Litton.
Salvatori’s role in the Republican Party helped shape the landscape of both California and national politics. He was dubbed “the genius of California financiers for conservative causes” and emerged as an outspoken champion of Barry Goldwater’s presidential campaign in 1964. Along with several other wealthy Californians, he helped persuade Ronald Reagan to run for governor in 1966 and was a member of what would become known as the Kitchen Cabinet during President Reagan’s two terms in office.
Salvatori was elected to the USC board of trustees in 1960 and was named a life trustee in 1984. He was a member of the USC Associates as well.
“The University of Southern California is indebted to Henry Salvatori for his longstanding commitment to the university,” said USC President Steven B. Sample. “As a benefactor and trustee during a period of unmatched growth at the university, Mr. Salvatori leaves an indelible mark for all to admire.”
Salvatori’s many significant contributions to USC spanned more than three decades:
* In 1992, he contributed $1.3 million to endow the Henry Salvatori Forum in Public Affairs, a program in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences designed to bring leading thinkers together to debate critical issues facing the American public.
* In 1991, he gave $300,000 to the Grace Ford Salvatori Community Scholarship Fund in honor of his late wife’s longtime association with USC’s Joint Educational Project (JEP). Two years later, he gave $1 million to endow JEP – a program in which USC undergraduates provide tutoring and other services to students in local schools.
* In 1982, he established the Henry Salvatori Chair in Computer Science at the USC School of Engineering.
* During the 1970s, he was the major donor for construction of the USC School of Engineering’s main center for instruct-ional computing – the $2 million Henry Salvatori Computer Science Center. In 1977, he contributed $2 million – half the anticipated cost – to erect Grace Ford Salvatori Hall, a three-story classroom building for the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
* During the 1960s, he contributed $1.25 million to establish a USC School of International Relations institute for research on Communist strategy and propaganda. “I have long been concerned with the free world’s chronic ignorance or misjudgment of Communist objectives, strategy and propaganda,” Salvatori said in presenting the gift. “I am confident that when we understand the Communists, we will be able to out-think and outmaneuver them. This institute is one way I can contribute to our national defense, and perhaps survival.”
* His contributions to USC included more than $2 million to the Salvatori Classroom Fund.
Others to benefit from Salvatori’s philanthropy were the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Stanford University, Pepperdine Univer-sity, Hillsdale College, St. Thomas Aquinas College and Claremont McKenna College.
In 1957, he gave $1 million to establish the Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World at the Claremont Men’s College.
His generosity also included gifts to hospitals, children’s clubs, opinion publications (he was a founding stockholder of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review), civic groups and the arts.
Salvatori won the Spirit of America Award in 1987, and he received the American Educational League’s “American of the Year” award of 1966 for his “outstanding citizenship and creativity under the free enterprise system.” He received numerous awards from the oil industry and held Italy’s highest award of record, “The Cavaliere di Gran Crocce.”
Salvatori attended high school in Philadelphia, then earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania (1923) and a master of science degree in physics at Columbia University (1926). He received honorary doctorates from the University of Pennsylvania, Pepperdine University and USC.
Salvatori is survived by his son, Henry Ford Salvatori, his daughter, Laurie Salvatori Champion, and grandson Ford Courtlandt O’Connell. His wife of 54 years, Grace Ford Salvatori, died in 1990.
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