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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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Walter J. and Betty C. Zable Walter J. and Betty C. Zable

Extending a Legacy

A $2.5 million grant from the Walter J. and Betty C. Zable Foundation to SDSU’s Stadium Excellence Fund continues the legacy of an All-American athlete who became a corporate founder and philanthropis
By Tobin Vaughn

Among the familiar names to be found throughout San Diego State University’s new Snapdragon Stadium are those of a San Diego couple remembered locally and nationally for their generosity. The Walter J. and Betty C. Zable Foundation SDSU President’s Suite is a grateful tribute by the university honoring the pair whose namesake foundation recently made a $2.5 million grant to the Stadium Excellence Fund.

The Stadium Excellence Fund was created to help pay for Snapdragon Stadium’s construction. The grant, however, will reach well beyond the football stadium according to Walter J. and Betty C. Zable Foundation Board President Warren Magill (’78).

“It was something good for the community,” said Magill, who holds a degree in accounting from SDSU and was the late Walter Zable’s longtime accountant. “With everything else that's going on with SDSU Mission Valley, I think Walt would have liked not only the sports part of it, but the general impact as well.”

Formed in 1997, the foundation’s mission is to continue its founders’ legacy by encouraging and promoting health, science research, assisting with programs that benefit youth, underprivileged individuals, and sports-related activities primarily in San Diego County. 

A Passion for Sports

Growing up, Walt Zable was captivated by two things: sports and electronics. Both would heavily influence his life and, ultimately, his legacy.

A gifted athlete, Zable received a scholarship to the College of William and Mary where he earned a physics degree along with All-American honorable mention as a football receiver, landing a spot in the school’s Sports Hall of Fame. The William and Mary football team plays its home games in Walter J. Zable Stadium.

Zable met and married fellow student Betty Carter, with whom he would relocate to San Diego and in 1951 found Cubic Corporation, a major company in the defense and public transport industries.  As the company grew, the Zables shared their success through philanthropic gifts. 

Among the beneficiaries of the couple’s largesse over the years have been the SDSU President’s Leadership Fund, SDSU basketball’s Jeff Jacobs JAM Center, and the University of San Diego’s athletics department, where the school’s athletics teams play on Walter J. Zable Field at Torero Stadium. “Walt definitely liked to support sports,” Magill noted.

Keeping a Legacy Alive

With its grant to the Stadium Excellence Fund, the foundation ensures that one of Walt Zable’s great passions will be acknowledged well into the future through SDSU.    

“The university and particularly the athletics department are thankful for the foundation’s support over so many years,” said SDSU executive associate athletic director for development Curt Apsey. “We are pleased and proud to include the Zable name in a project of such broad significance for our entire community.”

When he died in 2012 at the age of 97 after six decades as Cubic Corporation’s chief executive officer, Walt Zable was known as the oldest CEO of a publicly traded company. Through the Walter J. and Betty C. Zable Foundation, his and Betty’s philanthropy will continue, said Magill.

“Part of our job, I think, is to keep Walt’s legacy alive in San Diego, so it’s nice that our name is going to be in the stadium as long as it stands. A lot of people going in and out of the president's suite will know who he was, but down the road maybe people who don’t know who he was will see the name and ask.”