George Nicholas Boone, longtime friend of the university, life trustee, former USC Alumni Association president and leading Southern California philanthropist, died August 12, 2008, at his home in San Marino, Calif. He was 85.
“The entire Trojan Family mourns the loss of George Boone,” said USC President Steven B. Sample. “He and his wife, MaryLou, have shared a strong belief in the university’s mission as well as in the creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship of our students and faculty. He leaves a legacy at USC that is felt in fields ranging from dentistry and medicine to environmental studies. In addition, George’s passing means the loss of a dear personal friend of Kathryn’s and mine.”
George Boone enrolled at USC as a transfer student from Pasadena City College, receiving support from the U.S. Navy for his pre-dental studies. After earning a D.D.S. in 1946, he worked as a dentist on a military base in China, later returning to the university to earn a master’s degree in 1951. He practiced orthodontics in the Pasadena area for 20 years before going into the real estate business in 1969.
As a real estate developer, Boone combined his artistic ability with business acumen to create industrial buildings and office parks in Santa Fe Springs and the San Gabriel Valley. He believed that it was important to have attractive places for people to work, and made sure that his projects were both well designed and beautifully landscaped.
Boone often remarked that he had enjoyed all three of his careers but that his greatest satisfaction came from the third — philanthropy. Together with his wife, MaryLou — who holds B.S. in dental hygiene as well as a master’s in art history from USC — he generously shared his success with his alma mater as well as with many other organizations throughout Southern California. As a philanthropist, George Boone was a visionary who was committed to helping institutions “think outside the box” and create innovative new initiatives.
In 1984, the Boones endowed the George and MaryLou Boone Chair in Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the USC School of Dentistry, advancing research into fundamental questions about genetics and craniofacial development. In 1996, the couple donated real estate to support renovation of the third floor of USC’s Eileen and Kenneth T. Norris Dental Science Center, helping create a state-of-the-art orthodontic clinic as well as patient-simulation units for the pre-clinical education of dental students. George Boone also served as a part-time faculty member of the dental school, where he lectured in the undergraduate orthodontic program and conducted seminars on practice management.
Building on a longstanding interest in conservation issues, the Boones made a lead gift to the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 2004 to establish the George and MaryLou Boone Center for Science and Environmental Leadership, a complex of houses on a hillside overlooking the USC Philip K. Wrigley Marine Science Center on Santa Catalina Island. Intended to serve as a “Camp David for the environment” — a setting for training programs, leadership and planning retreats, and high-profile conferences on environmental topics — the center was dedicated in March 2008. Five years before, the Boones also had made a gift to construct a cottage, Boone House, which houses faculty, students and other visitors who travel to the island to conduct research.
In March 2005, the Keck School of Medicine of USC announced two separate gifts from the Boones: one to establish the George and MaryLou Boone Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Research Center, and one to endow the George N. and MaryLou Boone Professorship in Medical Excellence. Rather than focusing on research, as most endowed faculty positions do, this professorship focuses on patient care and provides budgetary support for internal medicine.
First elected to the USC Board of Trustees in 1995, George Boone also was a member of the USC College Board of Councilors and the advisory board of USC’s Philip K. Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies. Over the years, he served on the boards of USC’s schools of dentistry, medicine and fine arts as well. He was a charter member of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate, and he and his wife were founding members of the USC Presidential Associates, the USC School of Dentistry Associates and the Widney Fellows, a former support group of the health sciences at USC. Additionally, he was member of the USC Alumni Association board of governors for four years, serving as association president for 1989-90.
In appreciation for his 55 years of service to the USC School of Dentistry, George Boone received the school’s Bronze Trojan award in July 2004. In 2005, he and his wife were among the inaugural recipients of Dean’s Medallion from USC College.
Beyond USC, George Boone was a life trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (where the Boone Children’s Gallery bears his name) and a trustee emeritus of the California Institute of the Arts. He and his wife also have been benefactors of Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Pasadena City College, Scripps College and Stanford University. At the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, George Boone helped convert a former garage/gardening shed into the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery, which is an important venue for changing exhibitions throughout the year.
Through the Boone Family Foundation, founded by George Boone in 1983, the Boones also have extended support to the Catalina Island Conservancy and a wide range of programs that encourage young people throughout Southern California to lead creative and productive lives.
In addition to his wife, Boone is survived by children Lynda Boone Fetter and husband Blaine Fetter, Nick Boone and Suzanne Boone; grandchildren Nic, Kyle and Adam Fetter, and Rex, Claire and Kelly Kirshner; and sister Jeanne Boone Tappan.