When O. Allen Alpay was a boy, his father would regularly ask if he could
borrow back $20 he had previously paid him as allowance. His father would
later return the money to Alpay, plus 100% interest.
“I thought he was running out of money, but he was setting an example
about how money should be used and put to work,” Alpay says. “I
was very lucky to have great parents. They taught me to strive to be the
best in everything—from education to life in general. I was raised
to be independent, as well as self-sufficient.
Alpay’s father assigned him odd jobs, such as changing the antifreeze
in the family car. As a result, Alpay learned what he calls a “must”
for success in life—how to be a “doer.” He did everything
he could to earn extra money, from bussing tables on Coney Island to waiting
at the gates of canneries in Sunnyvale, Calif., at 6 a.m. to pick up work
during summer breaks in college.
Today at 81, Alpay is redirecting that work ethic toward a new priority—giving
back to his community. In December of 2015, Torrance Memorial Medical
Center announced a $10 million gift by Alpay to name the O. Allen Alpay
East Wing, which houses Torrance Memorial’s Emergency Department
and Labor and Delivery unit.
“On many occasions, I and members of our family have used the services
of Torrance Memorial. We are always very impressed with the care we receive—
especially from the nursing staff,” Alpay says. “When the
opportunity presented itself to name the East Wing, I was very happy to
do what I believed was my responsibility as a community member. Each day
the East Wing celebrates the birth of a whole new set of lives in the
Labor and Delivery unit, while saving many others in its Emergency Department.
A donation to this world-class organization seemed to be the right thing
Alpay has always had a keen sense for the next right thing to do. He focused
on creating success one step at a time and excelled at virtually every
subject in school, including art and architecture. “All of my teachers
thought I’d go to med school. I was good in science, but I couldn’t
stand the sight of blood,” he says. Upon graduation, he followed
in the footsteps of his father, a Stanford University-educated engineer,
and set out for the University of Texas in Austin to pursue a degree in
Alpay won a scholarship to make his emphasis petroleum engineering and
geology, as the prominence of oil exploration grew in the 1950s. He earned
a Ph.D. from Purdue and worked as a summer intern at Standard Oil’s
oil production research affiliate, Pan American Petroleum in Tulsa, Okla.
Upon graduation, he joined the company as a senior research engineer.
In the ’50s after World War II, oil was the future of exploration.
“The high degree of sophistication in every aspect of the technology,
from exploration and drilling to production and refining, was mind-boggling,” he says.
During the 1970s, though, Alpay realized that computers, not oil, were
going to be the future, so he moved to California to pursue a degree in
computer sciences. He joined THUMS (a consortium of the five major oil
companies: Texaco, Humble, Union, Mobil and Shell), which was tasked with
the development and operation of oil deposits lying off the coast of Long
Beach. As his career progressed, Alpay never lost his love of art.
He painted in his spare time, which lead to his romantic fate. As a young
engineer in Tulsa, he met a teacher named Beverly, who he instantly recognized
as a no-nonsense girl. A clincher was when Beverly, an art enthusiast,
took him for a serious artist, seeing influences of the cubist, Pablo
Picasso, in one of his paintings.
Following Alpay’s move to California, Beverly came out to care for
him as he recovered from a thyroid operation. “When I awoke from
surgery Beverly’s face was the first I saw,” Alpay says. “That’s
when I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.”
Beverly continued her career as an eighth-grade English teacher at Dapplegray
Intermediate School. She later became a school administrator for the Palos
Verdes Unified School District and volunteeredatthe Art Center for nearly
a decade, where she served aspresident and chair of the board. In 1996,
she received the Medici Award, the Art Center’s highest honor. More
than a decade after her premature passing, Alpay made a $2 million donation
to name it the Beverly G. Alpay Center for Arts Education.
Alpay began investing in various real estate ventures in California and
Texas, which became a full-time endeavor. Always self-effacing, Alpay
says, “I’m basically a glorified janitor.” However his
companion today, Ruth Anne (known as Ruthie), also a widow and a former
teacher, begs to differ, noting that Alpay’s involvement in his
business affairs runs much deeper. After rising at 4 a.m. daily for a
three-mile walk, “He works like he is still 40.”
With friends, family and their community in mind, the couple is intent
on leaving something greater behind. “This gift is the legacy for
which I would most like to be remembered. It also serves to honor my late
wife Beverly who exemplified what volunteerism and service to the community
is all about,” Alpay says. “I hope it will inspire and motivate
others to step up and do what they can to give back to their community
in any way they can.”