Longtime San Diegan Dr. John Robert (Bob) Beyster is remembered as many things – gifted scientist, successful entrepreneur, and loving father and husband, to name a few. But above all, he was a remarkable man who changed the world for the better, even after he passed in 2014.
Fifty years ago, Bob, with steadfast support from his wife, Betty, founded what would become Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a company focused on solving challenging science and technology problems for U.S. government and commercial clients. While he could have gone the way of most executives and maintained ownership with a small group of investors, Bob had a far greater vision for his new company.
A believer in the value of employee empowerment, Bob designed the company so that ownership and profits belonged to the employees.
Bob once wrote, “External, disinterested individuals who would own part of the company and contribute little do not deserve to benefit by the hard work of the individuals within the company.”
This spread-the-wealth management style helped attract top talent including leading scientists to the region, and in the years that followed SAIC became a global giant in science and technology solutions and San Diego reaped the benefits of a highly educated, skilled workforce.
When Bob retired as Chairman of SAIC in 2004, the company had annual revenues of $8 billion and more than 43,000 employees, many of whom became millionaires thanks to their hard work and broad-based ownership.
Giving Back to the Community
Bob’s vision and Betty’s friendly mentorship to employees and their families built a participative culture and a capacity for giving back.
Their charitable efforts began early in their lives. They thoughtfully instilled the importance of giving back to their three children, Jim, Mark and Mary Ann. In 1996, they formed a private foundation to involve the family in reviewing and issuing community grants.
Ten years later, the family moved the private foundation assets to a donor–advised fund at The San Diego Foundation. Since then, family members have opened their own charitable funds and the family continues their annual grantmaking tradition.
“After observing people in need for various reasons, we just wanted to help,” shared Betty. “Scholarships are particularly rewarding, especially when we get to follow up and see how the kids progress in the future. It’s very gratifying to know that you’re helping someone along the way.”
Together, the family’s charitable giving has strengthened education, environment, arts and culture, and health services organizations. Their impact can be felt across the region and by thousands of San Diegans. The Foundation for Enterprise Development, University of California San Diego, University of San Diego, KPBS, Salvation Army, Father Joe’s Village, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, YMCA and USO are just a few of the many local organizations that have benefitted from transformational gifts from the Beyster family.
Impact in Philanthropy
Just as Bob built his career through innovation, the family is now doing the same with its charitable giving.
Family members recently contributed to a new impact investing fund that will address major community needs in San Diego with social investment that is recoverable and re-invested for even greater community benefit.
Jim explained, “I’ve supported Habitat for Humanity for a long time, and impact investing allowed me to provide funding in a new, meaningful way.”
This new, innovative philanthropic model enables donors to maximize the impact of their giving and creates new funding opportunities for the nonprofit community to increase the number of people they can serve.
“Impact investing allows me to not only make grants but to target the way my assets are invested,” explained Mary Ann. “My focus is triple bottom line organizations that focus on improving the environment, community health and economic prosperity.”
San Diego is a more vibrant region because of the generosity of the Beyster family. Their legacy of giving is one that reverberates throughout the region.