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Stanford Report, November 7, 2001

Service Friday for former trustee Edmund Wattis Littlefield


Edmund Wattis Littlefield, a former member of the Board of Trustees and major benefactor of the university, died of lung cancer Oct. 27 in Burlingame. He was 87.

Littlefield graduated from Stanford with honors in 1936 and received his MBA from the Graduate School of Business in 1938. He later contributed the name gift to construct the Edmund W. Littlefield Center, the building that houses the Business School faculty and classrooms today.

Robert Joss, dean of the Business School, said Littlefield "was one of the outstanding business leaders in the country without question. He had a first-rate mind; he was incisive at getting to the heart of business issues."

Littlefield joined Utah Construction Co. in 1951 and began a 21-year career as the firm's principal officer in 1958. Under his leadership, the company was transformed into a worldwide natural resources and shipping company, which was renamed Utah International Inc. In 1976, the company merged with General Electric in what was then the largest merger in history. Littlefield continued as a member of the GE board of directors.

"I once told a Business School leadership class that I thought Ed Littlefield was the most outstanding corporate executive I knew," said Arjay Miller, who was dean of the Graduate School of Business from 1969 to 1979 and a director of Utah International. "He had a vision to change the very nature of the corporation from one field -- construction, which was low profitability -- to mining uranium and coal, which was more profitable."

Robert Jaedicke, who was dean of the Graduate School of Business when the Littlefield Center was constructed, said Littlefield was "very keen on corporate governance and he was recognized as a corporate leader in that regard. He wanted to be sure the corporation was run for the benefit of the shareholders, not just the managers. It was in the days when boards of directors were being looked to more and more for leadership. That idea might be old hat today, but it wasn't in the 1970s and '80s."

Miller also recalled Littlefield as a "great philanthropist." Besides providing the name gift for the Littlefield Center, in 1973 he endowed a Business School professorship. Littlefield also was a benefactor of the Hoover Institution, the Medical Center and the School of Earth Sciences.

Littlefield also is remembered as an excellent communicator. "He had a way of talking about very serious and important things with a keen wit," said Jaedicke. "Everybody got the point."

Littlefield served on the Stanford University Board of Trustees from 1956 until 1969, the Graduate School of Business Advisory Council from 1959 until 1984, and the Hoover Institution Board from 1990 to 1994. In 1970, Littlefield was the recipient of the Ernest C. Arbuckle Award, given annually by the Graduate School of Business to an outstanding alumnus. In 1983, he received the Stanford Athletic Board Achievement Award.

He also served at different times as a director of both the San Francisco and the California chambers of commerce, as chairman of SRI International and as a trustee of the Bay Area Council and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

Littlefield is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jeannik; three children, Edmund Jr. of Arlington, Wash.; Jacques of Portola Valley; and Denise Sobel of New York City; and six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Friday in Memorial Church with a reception following at the Frances C. Arrillaga Alumni Center. The family has requested gifts go to Stanford University, Office of Development -- Memorial Gifts, 326 Galvez St., Stanford, CA 94305-6105; Ducks Unlimited, 3074 Gold Canal Drive, Rancho Cordova, CA, 95670-6116; or a charity of choice.