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Friday, June 24, 2022

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Leonard Lavin (seated) was awarded an honorary degree by SDSU in 2012. Leonard Lavin (seated) was awarded an honorary degree by SDSU in 2012.

In Memoriam: Leonard Lavin

The patron of SDSU’s Lavin Entrepreneurship Center was a giant among U.S. businessmen.
By SDSU News Team

“We will continue to be inspired by his example as we work to create opportunities for all of our SDSU community.”

Leonard Lavin, whose life was a testament to the resilience of the American dream, passed away on Aug. 2 at his home in Illinois. He was 97.

A staunch supporter of San Diego State University, Lavin invested time and treasure to create the university’s Lavin Entrepreneur Program and VentureStart Competition. In 2012, he made a significant gift to endow the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center.

“Leonard Lavin’s vision, generosity and personal involvement as guest lecturer and student mentor strengthened our nationally ranked entrepreneurship programs and our entrepreneurial spirit,” said SDSU President Sally Roush. “Leonard leaves a lasting legacy at SDSU through what he liked to call ‘a blueprint for a new generation of entrepreneurs’—the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center and our collaborative entrepreneurial efforts that stretch across the university.”

Fortune 1000 company founder

Lavin was born in Chicago in 1919 and grew up during the Great Depression. He served in eight decisive battles of World War II with the U.S. Navy.

At the age of 35, Lavin bought a regional beauty supply manufacturer and turned it into a market leader with a presence in more than 100 countries. Under his direction, the Alberto Culver Company became an international Fortune 1000 company—a manufacturing and marketing powerhouse that achieved annual sales of more than $3.5 billion.  

The company earned a reputation for innovation, both in new product development and in television advertising. Lavin is credited with developing television’s first 15- and 30-second commercials, despite network opposition. Today, they are the broadcast standard.

Fueling entrepreneurship

A frequent guest lecturer at SDSU, Lavin shared his knowledge and insight with hundreds of students. His support fueled the spirit of entrepreneurship across campus and ultimately led to the creation of an entrepreneurship minor, which is open to students in all SDSU colleges. The university awarded him an honorary degree in 2012.

“As a highly accomplished entrepreneur in his own right, Leonard believed in our vision and supported us with resources that enabled us to build world-class programming for the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Alex DeNoble, professor of management and director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center.

“He loved coming to classes and interacting with our students in so many different ways. We will continue to be inspired by his example as we work to create opportunities for all of our SDSU community.”

SDSU’s entrepreneurship program has been ranked in the top 25 by both Forbes and U.S. News and World Report.

About the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center

As Lavin intended, the programs housed in SDSU’s Lavin Entrepreneurship Center provide real-world experience to aspiring entrepreneurs.

Lavin VentureStart is a business plan competition open to students from all SDSU colleges. The Lavin Entrepreneurs Program, designed for upper-division students, offers individual mentoring; site visits to emerging growth companies; and an entrepreneur speaker series among other growth experiences.