Fifty three years into his temporary stay, Dr. Don Booth continues to inspire students and enhance the Chapman experience.
Dr. Don Booth’s start at Chapman is ironic. The Larry Parlett Professor of Economics, who celebrates 55 years on campus, never expected to stay longer than a couple of years. "Chapman gave me all the things I was really looking for," Dr. Booth said. While Booth has earned distinction for his long tenure, he is esteemed for his practical approach to teaching as well as a deep interest in the success of students who then go on to become mentors themselves
Dr. Booth came west for school, having grown up in Northern Minnesota among a population of 700, intending to study law. It wasn't his enlistment in the Marine Corps or his marriage to Louise Booth that diverted him from his Juris Doctor, but rather his love for economics and a few inspiring teachers along the way.
Dr. Booth sees now that the persuasiveness of teachers like UCLA Professor Armen Alchian, Ph.D., foreshadowed the way he would influence so many others. Set on being a teacher, he removed the litany of memorization from his lessons. Instead, he helped students apply what they learned in the classroom to everything in their lives.
"A really great teacher is one who changes your life. It’s not exactly about what they taught," Dr. Booth said.
"I know no one who has done more as a mentor and friend to our students, inspiring them to reach their heights," Chapman President James L. Doti said. Dr. Booth’s students find it easy to relate to a man they say sees beyond age and ethnicity.
A few years ago, after several years with no contact, Dr. Booth and former student John Sanders ’66 reunited. Sanders sat in his professor's office and listened to a recording of a speech he could not identify. It turned out to be Martin Luther King Jr.’s address at Chapman in December 1961. After listening to Dr. Booth remember the night Dr. King spoke, Sanders praised Booth's ability to respect and encourage the thoughts of a man such as Dr. King before many others did.
"He's one of those people that God has given a gift. … He has a reservoir of empathy for other people," Sanders said. Sanders, an attorney, has grasped the importance of empathy and carries it with him in his adult life. He takes the time to mentor young people at the YMCA. “I use the same tactics now that he did as a mentor,” Sanders said. “Conversations are a way to impart knowledge.”
Dr. Booth has done far more for Chapman than instruction. Beyond having held nearly every administrative position on campus, he is also a man of firsts: the first chairman of the faculty, the first faculty chair in the Argyros School of Business and Economics, the first to coordinate a lecture series that drew guests such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Dr. King, and the first to take advantage of study-abroad opportunities during interterm.
Mementos of his travels with students to Russia, China, Mexico and elsewhere decorate his Beckman Hall office, where diplomas and awards might otherwise hang.
A photo of Tibetan children crowded in a small space they call home reminds him that there are people who live with so little. These images become a lesson for all the students who frequent his office. The photos reflect the pursuits of a man passionate about global citizenship – and about helping students achieve all they seek in their studies, their careers and their lives.