FAMOUS FOOTBALL PLAYER’S LAST PLAY MAKES LASTING IMPRESSION
Walter J. Zable grew up in South Boston during the Great Depression. Life was hard, times were tough and sports gave him the chance to go to college and a way to escape things that might have kept him from the life he was destined to lead.
“Sports put him through school and helped him make a bit of a living,” says his son, Walter C. Zable. “If it hadn’t been for sports, he probably wouldn’t have gone to college. That’s why he always had such an affinity for sports and why it was important to him to help other athletes.”
It was through sports that Zable made a tremendous difference at USD, where he served on the Board of Trustees from 1977 to 1996, where he endowed athletic scholarships and where the football field is named in his honor.
When Zable passed away last summer, at 97, USD learned that he and his late wife, Betty, had designated $6 million from their estate to support Torero Athletics and fund athletic scholarships.
“From the early days of Walter’s time on the Board of Trustees to the creation of the Sports Banquet to supporting multiple capital campaigns, Walter and Betty Zable and their family have graced USD with their generosity,” says Associate Vice President for Athletics Ky Snyder. “The Zable Men’s Basketball endowment and support of our most recent capital campaign ensures that the Zable family’s support of our student-athletes will live on in perpetuity.”
Zable is also remembered as a prominent engineer and entrepreneur. In 1951, Zable founded Cubic Corporation, an innovative electronics company that would grow rapidly from its humble beginnings in the family garage. Today, Cubic is a global market leader providing innovative solutions and services in the defense, security and transportation markets. It has a market cap of more than $1 billion.
“My mother was the company’s first secretary and I remember as a kid going into the garage and seeing guys soldering circuit boards and testing equipment,” says Walter C. Zable, Cubic’s executive chairman of the board. “My father didn’t think much of organizational charts. His management style was to give people the freedom to use their own imagination to design products.”
His parents established the Walter J. and Betty C. Zable Foundation in 1997. The foundation seeks to continue the legacy of the founders by encouraging and promoting health, science research, assisting programs that benefit youth, underprivileged individuals and sports-related activities, primarily in San Diego County.
Cubic also supported education programs and was a founding sponsor of the Greater San Diego Inner-City Games, which provides after-school sports and fitness, art and academic opportunities for students. Cubic also honored hundreds of scholar-athletes through the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame’s Walter J. Zable/San Diego Chapter.
For Zable, the focus always came back to sports and finding ways to help young people excel — at USD and throughout the community.
“The University of San Diego was lucky to have Walter Zable on our Board of Trustees for nearly 20 years,” says USD President Mary E. Lyons, PhD. “His legacy, generosity and vision will live on through our Toreros who, because of him, are making a difference in the world.”
Walter C. Zable says he and his wife, Stefanie, “embrace the legacy of the family and, together with the next generation of Zables, will focus on helping the youth — both in our communtiy and globally.” — Krystn Shrieve