A young woman these days might talk about the importance of having “a seat at the table” in terms of building her career. When Marilyn Beaudry-Corbett ’53, MS ’61 was in business school, she considered herself fortunate they let her in the door.
“I was often the only woman in the room,” she said. “But I persevered.”
After a long and successful career in marketing and a second career as an archaeology professor, Beaudry-Corbett decided to give back: She has made a $4 million gift to the USC Marshall School of Business to enable other women to pursue a graduate-level business education. The gift will fund scholarships for female MBA students 30 and over.
“Marilyn Beaudry-Corbett’s extremely generous donation is visionary and courageous,” said USC Marshall Dean James G. Ellis. “She understands firsthand the challenges women still face in advancing their business careers, and her investment helps level the playing field by offering them access to a critical educational opportunity.”
Studies show that MBA programs struggle to attract women, in part because of the age students typically pursue the degree — their late 20s or early 30s. Most programs mandate at least several years’ work experience, but that often comes into conflict with a person’s desire to marry and start families.
Marilyn’s gift is particularly significant given the events she lived through as a single, professional woman in an era when women weren’t necessarily allowed to be either.
“Marilyn’s gift is particularly significant given the events she lived through as a single, professional woman in an era when women weren’t necessarily allowed to be either,” said Anne Ziemniak, assistant dean and director of the full-time MBA program. “Despite those challenges, she went on to became very successful, and with her gift, she is in essence paying it forward to the next generation of women business leaders.”
From USC to Radcliffe
Born and raised in Southern California, Beaudry-Corbett grew up with a keen interest in the workings of her father’s candy-making business. She enrolled at USC’s School of Business Administration, as USC Marshall was then known. From there she went to Radcliffe to attend the Harvard-Radcliffe School of Business Administration — at the time, Harvard did not admit women.
“We had the same professors and the same coursework,” she said. “But they came to us. We weren’t allowed to go onto the Harvard campus to take classes there.”
Beaudry-Corbett later returned to USC for a master of science degree in industrial sociology and entered the nascent field of marketing research, joining Audience Studies Inc., a marketing and advertising research firm. The job took her all over the world and she eventually rose to become the chief operating officer.
She prospered, investing in real estate, and buying a home high in the Hollywood Hills. But in the ’70s, ever her own woman, she asked herself whether she wanted to continue at that pace for another 10 to 15 years.
“The answer was absolutely not,” she said.
And so at the peak of her corporate career, she decided to pivot and pursue her passion: archaeology, an interest she had discovered by taking UCLA extension courses. Once again she ignored naysayers and went on to earn first a master’s degree followed by her PhD in 1983. She met her future husband, Don Corbett, a retired dentist with an interest in archaeology who enrolled in one of her classes.
“She wasn’t an easy teacher,” he recalled. “But I really didn’t mind. I really got more out of the class than anyone else!”
Having achieved every goal she set her mind to, Beaudry-Corbett eventually retired from teaching, traveled the world and began thinking about her next chapter.
“I knew I wanted the money I raised through my investments to do some good,” she said. “I decided on philanthropy and supporting the things I’ve enjoyed in my life.”
In 2014, she gave $5 million to the UCLA Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, endowing fellowships with preference given to women aged 30 and over, and endowing a chair in Mesoamerican archaeology.
Her gift to USC Marshall would follow.
“I’m my own crosstown rival,” she said with a laugh. “But I have a special place in my heart for the business school at USC.”