The Corporate/University Connections to South Africa

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The Corporate/University Connections to South Africa

by Charles Schwartz

‘Science for the People’ Vol. 10, No. 2, March/April 1978, p. 41–42

A host of powerful businessmen dominate the boards of regents or trustees of the nation’s universities; 

A handful of select professors and university administrators sit on the boards of directors of major corporations; and, less well-known, 

A myriad of advisory councils and visiting committees attached to individual campus departments are heavily populated with high ranking executives from important corporations.

This extensive interlocking provides a basic means by which the policies and programs of American higher education are shaped to meet the requirements of the reigning economic powers. There is nothing conspiratorial or subversive about these arrangements – although much of this is not well known – it is simply the natural way for modern capitalism to attend to its own needs.1

The flow of influence in this campus-corporate channel might conceivably go the other way. It is not likely that a few liberal-minded professors or college presidents would persuade their corporate benefactors to abandon some noxious but profitable activity; however, a strong student movement, acting on an issue with broad public support, might be able to bring considerable pressure to bear on these exposed tentacles of corporate power. 

The apartheid policy of South Africa, supported by U.S. business investments in that country, is just such an issue. The main strategy to date has been calling attention to university investments in the stocks and bonds of corporations doing business in South Africa and calling on regents or trustees to divest the university of such holdings. For a number of reasons this approach may prove to be limited (the desire to protect the value of the endowment and retirement funds invested; the minimal impact of divestment on the corporations); and other strategies that might hurt the corporations in real economic terms (such as an effective consumer boycott) are very difficult to organize and maintain. Thus, a program to expose and bring pressure to bear on campus-connected officials of major corporations doing business in South Africa may provide an important supplementary strategy for campus activists. 

Preliminary research shows that there are plenty of opportunities for applying such a plan. At UC Berkely I have already found the official presence of some two dozen top executives of corporations identified as doing business in South Africa2, as shown in the box below. 

For another perspective, I surveyed the lists of directors and top executives given in the latest annual reports of 13 major U.S corporations doing business in South Africa, looking at the Who’s Who biography of each person to find any university connections. A total of 212 such connections were found: GM had the most (40), then came IBM (34), GE (25), B of A (21), H-P (19), Ford (15), Western Bancorp (14), Cat. Tract. (11), Exxon (10), Texaco (8), 3M (7), SOCal (5) and FMC (3). 

The universities’ connections with these 13 corporations ranked as follows: Stanford (14), Harvard (12), Cal Tech (9), MIT (8), UCal (7), Cornell (5), Dartmouth (5), Yale (5), etc. 

Obviously, there is much more data of this type waiting to be uncovered; and the campaign being suggested here would benefit from coordinated action on a number of campuses. The detailed tactics should, of course, be carefully devised to maximize the educational opportunities found in bringing the issue of corporate investments in South Africa down to the local departmental level on campus.


Administration and Faculty:
Chester 0. McCorkle, Jr., vice-president of US, is a director of Del Monte
Luis W. Alvarez, professor of physics, is a director of Hewlett-Packard
Kenneth S. Pitzer, professor of chemistry, is a director of 0 wens-Illinois
Charles H. Townes, professor of physics, is a director of General Motors

Board of Regents:
Edward W. Carter is a director of DelMonte and also of Western Bancorporation
Donald G. Reithner is Corporate Resident Manager-West for IBM

College of Engineering Advisory Board:
Arthur G. Anderson is a vice-president of IBM
Robert Bromberg is a vice-president of TRW
W. Dale Compton is a vice-president of Ford
Edgar J. Garbarini is a director of Bechtel
Eneas D. Kane is a vice-president of Standard Oil of California
George J. Stathakis is a vice-president of General Electric

Department of Chemical Engineering Advisory Board:
W. Kenneth Davis is a vice-president of Bechtel
Herbert D. Doan is a director of Dow Chemical
Richard E. Emmert is an executive of DuPont
John W. Scott is a vice-president of Chevron Research (Standard Oil of California)
Frank B. Sprow is an executive of Exxon

Schools of Business Administration Advisory Council:
(latest list from 1975)
James E. Gosline, a director of Standard Oil of Clifornia
Walter E. Hoadley, a vice-president of Bank of America
Richard G. Landis, president of Del Monte
James W. Porter, managing partner of Arthur Young & Co.

UCB (Alumni) Foundation Board of Trustees:
Edgar J. Garbarini is a director of Bechtel
Henry F. Trione is chairman of the board of Wells Fargo Mortgage
Rudolph A. Peterson is a director of Bank of America and Standard Oil of California

In addition, the Members of the Business Associates Program (UCB School of Business Administration) includes ten companies doing business in South Africa.

UC is also a member of The Bay Area Council, a group of business and civic leaders concerned with long-range planning for the San Francisco Bay Area. Chancellor Albert Bowker was on their board of directors until July 1977, when he was replaced by Earl Cheit, Dean of Berkeley’s School of Business Administration. On the Council’s Executive Committee are found the following:
Ernest C. Arbuckle, chairman of the board of Wells Fargo Bank
H.J. Haynes, chairman of the board of Standard Oil of California
Arjay Miller, a director of Ford
A.W. Clausen, president of Bank of America
Edmund W. Littlefield, a director of General Electric

>>  Back to Vol. 10, No. 2  <<


  1. For a good discussion of the relevant history on this subject, see David N. Smith, “Who Rules the Universities?” Monthly Review Press, 1974.
  2. Sources for this identification: Letters from the corporations written in response to an inquiry by the UC Treasurer, summer 1977, a list compiled by the American Consulate General, Johannesburg, S.A., May 1976, and distributed by The Africa Fund, New York City.