Philanthropist, entrepreneur Jack Gilbert dies

The former CLU regent was the most generous lifetime donor to the university.

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Aug. 6, 2012) – John B. “Jack” Gilbert, one of Ventura County’s most accomplished entrepreneurs and a renowned philanthropist, died on Aug. 2 of complications from pneumonia. He was 91.

Gilbert, chairman of the board of TOLD Corp. and a former member of the California Lutheran University Board of Regents, and his wife, Carol, have been the most generous lifetime donors in the history of the university. The Oxnard residents began supporting CLU in 1985 and challenging others to follow suit.

"Jack was a successful entrepreneur who took pride in this university and believed in its potential to serve the needs of the region," said CLU President Chris Kimball. "The Gilbert Sports and Fitness Center is testimony to his generosity and his influence on the campus. So, too, are the many other buildings and programs that do not bear his name but exist because of his support. The university's success over the last decade is due in large part to Jack’s vision and commitment."

The proud owner of one of the first Social Security cards issued in 1936 with the New Deal, Gilbert began working full time at age 14. His sharp math skills led him to a career in accounting after his service in the Navy during World War II.

At several large companies Gilbert would learn that he “didn’t like working for other people,” as he told CLU Magazine in 2003. He mortgaged his house to buy Zero Corp. in 1952 and served as chairman of the board as the electronics packaging specialist grew into an NYSE company with more than 2,800 employees and 15 manufacturing plants throughout the world.

In 1973, Jack turned over day-to-day operations of Zero to the management team he had developed, and moved to Ventura County to found Thousand Oaks Land and Development Co. During its first years of business, the company earned a reputation for creating industrial and high-technology buildings of exceptional quality.

After a decade of solid growth and profitability, Jack shortened his company's name to TOLD Corp., which became one of the county’s largest and most respected real estate developers. Primarily using concrete tilt-up construction, TOLD has built numerous public and private buildings, totaling nearly 5 million square feet.

The Gilberts’ gifts were not only the largest cumulative cash contributions in CLU’s history but also some of the largest gifts made to organizations in the region.

In making gift announcements, Gilbert always encouraged others to step forward to help CLU realize its vision by maintaining the pace and momentum of the current campus development.

The $18 million Gilbert Sports and Fitness Center, which opened in 2006, was the first of several athletics venues built on the CLU campus north of Olsen Road. The center also houses the multi-purpose Gilbert Arena, a second practice gym, Lundring Events Center, classrooms and labs, Forrest Fitness Center, a dance and aerobics studio, a sports medicine facility, offices for faculty and coaches, and Hall of Fame showcases for the university and Ventura County.

A champion of business, community and charitable programs, Gilbert has been honored by numerous organizations. Recognized as a major contributor to the economic progress of Ventura County, he was the first recipient of the Hall of Fame Award presented by the Ventura County Economic Development Association in 1989. Gilbert received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from CLU in 1990. In 2010, he was inducted into the Tri-County Business Hall of Fame.

In a gesture typical of Jack Gilbert, when he was presented with the Philanthropist of the Year award by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2003, he made a surprise announcement of an additional $2 million gift to CLU. In making the spontaneous gift announcement, Gilbert challenged others in the audience of nearly 300 to help CLU finish its then $80 million capital campaign. He made a similar request when he presented the university with one of the largest gifts the previous year.

A memorial service and celebration of Gilbert’s life is planned for Tuesday, Aug. 14, at 10 a.m. in CLU’s Samuelson Chapel. A reception will follow in the Lundring Events Center in the Gilbert Sports and Fitness Center.

In lieu of flowers, the Gilbert family asks that memorial gifts be sent to California Lutheran University for the John B. Gilbert Scholarship for Business Ethics.