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Jerry H. Buss* -- Diamond Jubilee Outstanding Alumnus
Bachelor of Science -- 1942 -- Chemistry
"Education gives you freedom," Jerry Buss says. Growing up poor in Kemmerer's coal mining region, Buss decided early on that life underground was not for him. "I realized that most of the kids who grew up in the mining camps stayed in those towns and worked in the mines. I didn't see myself doing that; for one thing, I didn't like the idea of being a couple of miles underground with all that stuff over my head. So, freedom became the most important thing in my life, and education became my way out."
He worked to put himself through UW, graduating in only two-and-a-half years. He went on to get a master's in chemistry at the University of Southern California and, at age 24, completed his Ph.D. in chemistry there. He taught at USC before switching to the lucrative real estate market. Education is only part of the success equation, according to Buss. Perseverance is the other part. "Most people aren't willing to persevere. I've been working Saturdays since I was 16, so any success I've had is no surprise." Stubbornness and business acumen helped Buss become a major player in the tough competitive worlds of California real estate and professional sports. For two years, he flew to Las Vegas every three weeks to negotiate a deal which, in 1979, made him owner of the Los Angeles Lakers and their home, the Great Western Forum. He is a past owner of the National Hockey League Kings. But he hasn't forgotten Wyoming. He has hosted UW alumni reunions at the Forum and, in 1992, he gave a leading gift to help establish the annual Sara Jane Rhoads and Rebecca Raulins Lecture Series in Organic Chemistry to honor his former UW chemistry professors. The series brings world-class chemists to lecture at the University.
*In loving memory.