Robert Addison Day. Photo: W. M. Keck Foundation
Funeral services were pending today for businessman and philanthropist Robert Addison Day, the chairman and past CEO of the W.M. Keck Foundation and an ardent supporter of his alma mater, Claremont McKenna College.
Day died Thursday at age 79.
“As a dear friend, loyal alumnus, global business leader, dedicated Board chair, and visionary donor, Robert’s personal, professional, and philanthropic commitment to Claremont McKenna is extraordinary. The legacy of his impact is incalculable,” CMC President Hiram Chodosh said in a statement. “The entire CMC community and everyone we serve will benefit from the dividends of Robert’s investments for generations to come.”
A Los Angeles native, Day began his business-finance career in New York, then founded the Trust Company of the West finance firm in 1971. Thirty years later, he sold the company, now known as TCW Group, for $2.5 billion. He was also the founder and chairman of the Los Angeles-based Oakmont Corporation investment firm.
In 2007, he donated $200 million to Claremont McKenna College to establish the Robert Day Scholars program — the largest known gift ever given to a liberal arts institution.
“I know from talking with CEOs every day and sitting on boards of $40 billion-plus companies that there is an enormous opportunity for young people who possess leadership skills, financial acumen, and the kind of judgment and perspective that only an undergraduate liberal arts education can provide,” Day said at the time of the donation.
As leader of the Keck Foundation — which was established by his grandfather, William Myron Keck — he oversaw the distribution of more than $2 billion in grants. Among the organizations benefiting were Keck Medicine of USC, UCLA’s Keck Biomedical Initiative, the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Keck Institute for Space Studies at Caltech, Chapman University’s Keck Center of Science and Engineering, the Keck Graduate Institute at Claremont Colleges, COVID-19 research at USC and UCLA and safety net grants.
“Robert’s name — and that of his family — will forever be etched on this important part of the university’s upward trajectory,” USC President Carol L. Folt and USC Board of Trustees Chair Suzanne Nora Johnson said in a joint letter issued Monday. “Many of us have known Robert for a long time, and appreciate how much his leadership and vision contributed to building a better USC and a stronger Southern California.”
The Keck Foundation donated $110 million to USC in 1999 to create the Keck School of Medicine. It gifted the university another $150 million in 2011 and $10 million more in 2017.
“Robert strongly believed in the foundation’s mission to support pioneering discoveries in science, engineering and medical research,” the foundation’s co-CEOs Joseph Day and Steve Keck said in a joint statement. “In the area of education, he was committed to supporting undergraduate programs that promote inventive approaches to instruction and effective involvement of students in research. In Southern California, he focused on the foundation supporting organizations that enrich the lives of the region’s residents, particularly children, youth and their families.
“We will continue that mission of generating far-reaching benefits for humanity and following the ideals of our founding great grandfather, our uncle, our father and our cousin.”
Day was a Life Trustee at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; an Honorary Trustee of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Saint John’s Health Center; a Founders Circle Member of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University; and a member of The Broad Foundations Board of Governors.
He was the youngest-ever member of the Claremont McKenna College Board of Trustees when he joined the panel in 1970. He chaired the board from 1990-98.
The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute issued a statement Monday, saying Reagan “always appreciated Robert Day’s business acumen and admired his generous philanthropic support to so many worthy causes across America.”
“Robert Day’s advice and counsel was sought nationwide. In 2002, he served on President Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, which advises the president on intelligence collection, counterintelligence and foreign intelligence activities. Robert Day served with distinction on the Board of Trustees of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute since 2017. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers go to his wife, Marlyn, his three children, and to the entire Day family.”
Day is survived by his children Joe, DiDi and Jon; his grandchildren Taj, Sosi, Avo and Ziggy; his wife Marlyn Day, and his brother Matt Day and his family. He was predeceased by his brothers Lawrence and T.J. and sister Tammis. Day was previously married to Marina Day (Forstmann) and Kelly Day (Gilmore).