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Inspiring a Village

A Family Legacy Continues

Inspiring a Village

Located on Catalina Island as part of the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, the George and MaryLou Boone Center for Science and Environmental Leadership was established in 2004 with a generous lead gift from George and MaryLou Boone. Two years later, the College is ready to begin the expansion of the project. Complete with new island cottages and refurbished facilities, the center will provide critical accommodations for leadership programs, academic retreats, visiting faculty and outreach programs. Grading and preparation of the site will begin in September. Each cottage will be completely constructed on a lot in Long Beach Harbor and then transported by barge to Catalina Island, where they will be placed on foundations and finished on-site. In addition, the landscaping plan will include nature trails and natural habitat gardens.

Wrigleys Support Environmental Conservation and Education

For four generations, the Wrigley family’s involvement with USC College has helped build one of the most innovative marine and environmental science programs in the nation. The College paid tribute to the family in 2005—a year that marked the 40th anniversary of the Philip K. Wrigley Marine Science Center and the 10th anniversary of the USC Wrigley Institute.

A Legacy Begins

The Wrigley family’s passion for Catalina Island dates back to 1919, when chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. purchased controlling interest in the company which owned the island. Over the years, he and his family dedicated themselves to preserving and enhancing its natural beauty.

When William’s son, Philip Knight Wrigley, took the helm following his father’s death, he established the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy, a nonprofit corporation to protect Catalina’s ecological heritage. In 1965, he dedicated 5.5 acres of land to USC to create an island marine science center. The center quickly emerged as the heart of USC’s marine and terrestrial investigations.

Third in a line of Catalina patrons, William Wrigley carried on his family’s conservationist legacy and support for USC projects. In 1995, he and his wife, Julie, provided the capital to establish the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies, helping the marine science center expand its focus beyond marine biology to a broad range of environmental issues.

The Commitment Continues

Today, the family’s involvement continues to transform the Wrigley Institute into a state-of-the-art research laboratory and teaching facility.

“From very early on, the Wrigley family’s reverence for our natural world laid the foundation for what the Wrigley Institute was to become. Their unwavering contributions ensure USC College is a premier destination for interdisciplinary, socially-relevant research on the environment,” said Joseph Aoun, dean of USC College.

Alison Wrigley Rusack, the great-granddaughter of William Wrigley Jr., and her husband, Geoff, recently gave a generous gift to establish the Rusack Family House as a part of the George and MaryLou Boone Center for Science and Environmental Leadership. The cottage will provide much-needed accommodations for visiting faculty who come to Catalina to conduct research or attend scientific conferences.

Paxson H. Offield, the great-grandson of William Wrigley Jr. who serves as the chairman and CEO of the Santa Catalina Island Co., was instrumental in establishing the Wrigley Institute’s fisheries management program in 2000. His commitment to marine conservation also motivated him to endow a professorship in fisheries ecology in 2003.

“I thought it would be a real shame if we put together an entire marine sciences research center only to find there are no more fish in the ocean. And that’s the direction we’re headed,” said Offield. “The Wrigley needed someone who could train the future leaders of fisheries biology and policy.” The Paxson H. Offield Professor of Fisheries Ecology is currently held by College biologist Dennis Hedgecock.

Descendants of the Wrigley family continue to play important advisory roles in College affairs. Phil Hagenah, great-grandson of William Wrigley Jr., is an active member of the Wrigley Institute’s Advisory Board, where he helps guide the institute in bringing its message to a broader public audience.  

“The Wrigley family and USC College have together created a vision for Catalina Island and its value to science and society that is truly ahead of its time,” said Delta Murphy, chair of the Wrigley Advisory Board. “Four generations of this generous and thoughtful family have committed themselves to this common goal. We are grateful for their efforts.”

The Dewey Family House

For the Dewey family, Catalina Island is much more than a natural sanctuary and the home of groundbreaking environmental science research. It is the place where family memories are born.

Patsy Ziegler Dewey talks fondly about the times she and her late husband, Steven (B.S., ’60), along with their three sons, spent vacations at their home in Avalon. The boys would ride their bikes along the isthmus up the steep hill to Avalon, hunt for Easter eggs on the golf course, and watch fireworks from the Casino on the Fourth of July. Her sons’ first jobs were hauling garbage and carrying luggage in their wagons from the seaplanes and boats.

“Catalina is a little jewel that sits 26 miles across the sea. It’s a very special place for our family,” said Patsy, a USC alumna who earned her B.S. in education with a minor in geology in 1958. Her sons Brock (B.S., ’83), Chip and Scott have all been involved in the USC community and “simply love USC,” said Patsy.

Her family’s affection for Catalina and the university prompted Patsy to make a $1 million gift to establish the Dewey Family House.  The new cottage will house professors and faculty who conduct research at the College’s Wrigley Institute and be a part of the Boone Center.

“We saw the Wrigley Institute grow from the very beginning and we wanted to contribute in some way to help it become a world-class facility. I think the Boone Center will allow the College to draw even more professors of high caliber,” said Patsy, who is the CEO of Dewey Services, Inc.

The Pasadena-based company is a leader in using environmentally friendly methods of pest control and was started by Patsy’s father-in-law, Ray M. Dewey, in 1929.

Patsy’s sons are currently involved in the business, including company Vice-President Brock Dewey, who is also a member of the Wrigley Institute Advisory Board. Brock says his current passion for environmental issues stems from the many summers he spent diving and fishing every day as a child on Catalina. He and his wife Michelle (B.A., ’87) continue to visit the island every year with their two children.

“We are pleased that this gift will have a permanent impact on USC College and the island,” said Patsy. “And we wanted to do this for our grandchildren. One of them caught his first fish on Catalina.”

And so, the next generation of memories are born.

Plumleighs Support Boone Center

As longtime members of the Trojan Family, Robert and Elizabeth Plumleigh had heard of the USC College Wrigley Institute’s research campus on Catalina Island. But a tour of the facility three years ago made a lasting impression.

“It became clear to me that not enough people are aware of what is going on at Catalina. There is truly remarkable science happening here,” said Robert, who earned his bachelor’s degree in English literature from USC College in 1950.

Seeing the Wrigley up-close motivated the Plumleighs to pledge $1 million to construct an island home as part of the new Boone Center. One of four houses that currently exist as part of the center, the Plumleigh house is regularly used by faculty and scholars who come to the Wrigley to conduct research or attend conferences.

“We realized that these talented scientists need someplace to stay other than student dormitories,” said Robert. “We’re hoping this will become a Camp David of the West.”

The Plumleighs both play an active role in the governance of USC College. Robert has been a member of the humanities Advisory Board for five years and Elizabeth has served on the Wrigley Board for three years.  

“As a board member, I’ve gotten to be a part of all of the College’s improvements during the past few years. It’s a very exciting time,” said Elizabeth.

The Plumleighs met while he was a student at USC and Elizabeth was attending nearby Immaculate Heart College. “I used to sneak into dances to see her,” Robert recalled. They have been married for 55 years. Elizabeth went on to earn a master’s degree in liberal arts from USC College in 1984. Their daughter and son-in-law are graduates of USC and their granddaughter currently attends the university.

The couple’s interest in the humanities spurred their involvement with the College’s Master of Professional Writing program twelve years ago. In addition to hosting poetry readings on campus, their support has enabled the graduate program to offer some of Los Angeles’ most dynamic classes in non-fiction, fiction, poetry, playwriting, and screen and television writing.

“They have been invaluable advisers and friends to the College and we are grateful for their support,” said College Dean Joseph Aoun.

The Plumleighs also host pre-game brunches and post-game dinners for USC’s spirit groups the Song and Yell Leaders. And they still visit campus a couple of times every week to attend musical concerts, theater productions and other events.

“Above anything else, we thoroughly enjoy the friendly nature of the campus and interacting with the students,” said Elizabeth. “The College is an amazing place.”