Caltech Elects Three New Trustees

William Ahmanson, Alex Mehran, and Janet Campagna have joined Caltech's governing board in recent months

Published : Wednesday, October 25, 2017 | 8:21 PM

L-R Bill Ahmanson, Janet Campagna, and Alex Mehran. Credit Caltech

L-R: Bill Ahmanson, Janet Campagna, and Alex Mehran. Credit: Caltech

Caltech’s Board of Trustees, gathering this week for its annual retreat, has recently welcomed new members from the fields of philanthropy, finance, and real estate development.

William H. Ahmanson, President of the Ahmanson Foundation; Janet Campagna (MS ’85), founder and CEO of QS Investors and a Caltech Distinguished Alumna; and Alexander R. Mehran, chairman and chief executive officer of Sunset Development Company were all elected to the board in recent months. In total, the board comprises 45 trustees, 26 senior trustees, 19 life members, and one honorary life member.

We recently asked each of Caltech’s newest board members to reflect on their careers, education, and connection to the Institute. Read more about Ahmanson, Campagna, and Mehran.

Bill Ahmanson Elected as a New Caltech Trustee
By Jennifer Torres Siders
The Ahmanson Foundation president says he is inspired by Caltech innovation and discovery

Bill Ahmanson. Credit: Caltech

William (Bill) H. Ahmanson, president of The Ahmanson Foundation, has been elected to Caltech’s Board of Trustees. The Los Angeles native studied political science, theater arts, and sculpture at Occidental College and, while still a student, began a career at Home Savings of America. He served there for 17 years, first as a teller and ultimately as chief underwriter for the bank’s California residential lending division. He later worked in Union Bank’s wealth management division before retiring from the industry to lead The Ahmanson Foundation. The philanthropic organization focuses on arts and humanities, education, health and medicine, and human services in Los Angeles County.

Ahmanson has received numerous awards and honors, including the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Cardinal’s Award, the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations Joseph D. Helton Jr. Award for Leadership, and the Order of Saint Gregory the Great, a papal honor.

Ahmanson is one of three individuals to have joined the Board of Trustees, Caltech’s governing body, in recent months. The Board is led by David L. Lee (PhD ’74), chair, and Ronald K. Linde (MS ’62, PhD ’64), vice chair. It is currently composed of 45 trustees, 26 senior trustees, 19 life members, and one honorary life member.

Ahmanson recently reflected on his education and his interest in Caltech.

Tell us about a university professor who was particularly influential in your life.
Robert J. Janosik, an associate professor of politics at Occidental College, who died in 1992. He was my adviser and my constitutional law professor. He was engaging and thought provoking. The opinions of the students mattered, but so did the curriculum and the opinions of others.

What’s the best advice you have ever received?
There is so much good advice that is incorporated into my being. The best advice in business is, perhaps, “Say no quickly.” I have also found it is wise to pick your battles and to avoid making small issues bigger. Personally, I live by the only words of advice my father gave me: “Be fair.”

How did you become interested in Caltech?
Hopefully the statute of limitations has run out! During water balloon raids while I was attending Occidental College, I was taken by the campus and have always been curious about the school. As I am getting older and more interested in learning, I find the discoveries made possible at Caltech fascinating. It seems that students and faculty have no idea what the following three words mean when uttered in this order: “Can’t be done.”

Janet Campagna (MS ’85) Elected as New Caltech Trustee
By Jennifer Torres Siders
The finance leader and Distinguished Alumna has built a career charting new territory

Janet Campagna. Credit: Caltech

Janet Campagna (MS ’85), founder and CEO of QS Investors and a Caltech Distinguished Alumna, has been elected to the Institute’s Board of Trustees. After earning a bachelor’s degree in economics from Northeastern University, the Brookline, Massachusetts, native came to Caltech to pursue graduate studies in what was then an emergent social sciences department. She completed a master’s degree, then earned a PhD in political science from UC Irvine, researching electoral bias and helping develop California’s redistricting plans.

Soon after completing her academic studies, Campagna realized her skillset could be more aptly applied to finance, and she took her first job in the investment sector. She found she could apply her background as a social scientist to the emerging field of quantitative finance, which uses complex mathematical models to inform investment strategy. She rose through the ranks of firms including Barclays Global Investors in San Francisco and Deutsche Bank in New York, where she eventually became the global head of quantitative strategies.

Later, in the midst of the economic downturn, Campagna spun off her department into a new investment-management firm, QS Investors. She was named a Caltech Distinguished Alumna in 2016 for contributions to quantitative investment and leadership in the financial industry.

At Caltech, Campagna also serves on the Information Science and Technology council for the Division of Engineering and Applied Science. She is a member of advisory boards at UC Berkeley and Northeastern University, and is on the board of trustees at Mott Haven Academy in New York.

Campagna is one of three individuals to have joined the Board of Trustees, Caltech’s governing body, in recent months. The Board is led by David L. Lee (PhD ’74), chair, and Ronald K. Linde (MS ’62, PhD ’64), vice chair. It is currently composed of 45 trustees, 26 senior trustees, 19 life members, and one honorary life member.

Campagna recently reflected on her career and on lessons learned at Caltech.

Do you think it is important to take risks in life? Why?
Absolutely. The quantitative skills I obtained at Caltech opened up many opportunities I had never even realized existed. Almost every great opportunity and experience I have had in life has come when I push myself into the unknown.

What do you find most interesting or inspiring about Caltech?
The unabashed passion the community shows for its work and research interests. I wish more people were aware of the innovation that is generated by multidisciplinary collaboration at the Institute.

What qualities and experience do you bring to the role of trustee?
I bring strong fiduciary and risk-management discipline. I have knowledge of cybersecurity and a passion for shaping culture to fit an institution’s goals.

Alex Mehran Elected as a New Caltech Trustee
By Jennifer Torres Siders
The real estate developer says he’s inspired by Caltech’s “intensity of intellect”

Alex R. Mehran. Credit: Caltech

Alexander R. Mehran, chairman and chief executive officer of Sunset Development Company, has been elected to Caltech’s Board of Trustees.

A California native who has lived in San Francisco since 1977, Mehran earned a law degree from Cambridge University after completing his undergraduate education at Harvard. Trained as an international lawyer, Mehran made his most significant professional impact in real estate, contributing to the economic development of the East Bay region.

Mehran spent three years managing real estate companies and assets at J.P. Morgan before joining Sunset Development Company, a private, diversified real estate organization his father founded in 1951. Over the next four decades, under Mehran’s leadership, the company expanded beyond residential development, undertaking major commercial projects such as San Ramon’s Bishop Ranch, a business park that houses 600 businesses that employ 30,000 workers. Earlier this year, shared autonomous vehicles began operating at Bishop Ranch as part of a state pilot program.

Mehran is one of three individuals to have joined the Board of Trustees, Caltech’s governing body, in recent months. The Board is led by David L. Lee (PhD ’74), chair, and Ronald K. Linde (MS ’62, PhD ’64), vice chair. It is currently composed of 45 trustees, 26 senior trustees, 19 life members, and one honorary life member.

Mehran recently shared some of the lessons that have shaped his long career in real estate.

What have you learned during your career that you think others should know?
The greatest lessons that I have learned during my business career are that quality matters, integrity is essential, and relationships are critical. My most notable achievement has been to transform our business into a multigenerational platform. The proudest moment in my career was introducing my son to our company in 2010, when we had three generations working in our office. The most fun that I have had in my career is building buildings and seeing the public enjoy the spaces that we have created.

Tell us about a university professor who was particularly influential in your life.
I have had a number of influential teachers in my life, but one in particular comes to mind: Professor Paul Freund, who was my senior thesis adviser at Harvard. We became friends, and he advised me to pursue a career in public international law at Cambridge University in England, which I did. It was a life-changing experience.

What’s the best advice you have ever received?
The greatest advice that I have received is, “Live without fear, and know what you want.” Life without risk is not fun and doesn’t present challenges. If something doesn’t have risk, it has probably been done before, which doesn’t interest me.

What do you find most inspiring about Caltech?
I became interested in Caltech many years ago when my former father-in-law, Tom Watson, received an honorary degree, and I was present to experience the intensity of intellect that represents the Institute. The most inspiring aspect of Caltech is the intellectual rigor and depth of thought that occurs here. I wish people knew the practical applications of the research that comes out of Caltech.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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