News and Events
Duane and Kelly Roberts Fund the Pepperdine School of Law Dean’s Chair
Pepperdine University has announced that Duane and Kelly Roberts of Laguna Beach have endowed Pepperdine's first dean's chair with a generous seven-figure gift to the University. The Roberts' generosity endows the chair of the dean of Pepperdine’s School of Law currently held by Kenneth W. Starr.
Ronald Phillips, vice chancellor and School of Law dean emeritus commented on the appropriateness of the endowment for the Duane and Kelly Roberts Dean’s Chair coming from such close friends of Pepperdine. “Since the arrival of Dean Ken Starr at Pepperdine, we carefully considered whose name we would most like to permanently link with the Law School deanship at our institution,” said Phillips. “Duane and Kelly were our clear first choice because of their close identification with law, government, politics, entrepreneurship, community service, historic preservation, the very best of American ideals and values, and their special friendship.”
President Andrew K. Benton of Pepperdine noted the Roberts’ gift was a first for the University. “This expression of their confidence in Pepperdine endows the first dean’s chair within the University -- a goal that we have for each of our five schools,” said Benton. He added, “In the life of any University there are always, within each generation, a few families that come to the forefront and truly change the face of the institution. We believe that the Roberts are such a family.”
The Roberts are well-known to Pepperdine and Kelly currently serves on the Pepperdine University Board. Her husband, Duane, is a well-respected entrepreneur and community philanthropist. Originally from Riverside, California, Duane entered the business world following the example of his parents, Harry E. and Mary S. Roberts. Their hard work and the ethical treatment of business associates and customers impressed their son and they instilled in him the importance of contributing to the welfare of others, patriotism and civic consciousness.
While still in his teens and working for his family’s meat company, which was the hamburger supplier to the original “McDonald’s Drive-In” located in San Bernardino, California, Duane anticipated that fast food would soon become central to the American diet. He formulated and then introduced to the world the first commercially available frozen burrito. In 1964, he became president of Butcher Boy Food Products, Inc., and by 1980, he had built Butcher Boy into the largest frozen Mexican food manufacturer in the world (producing over one million burritos a day), increasing sales over 2,850 percent and creating 1,350 new jobs. After numerous offers, Duane sold the company in 1980 to a large NYSE-listed company, and embarked on a career as an investor.
Based on his keen business acumen and successful investment activities, Duane’s financial assets grew considerably and he created the Entrepreneurial Corporate Group (“ECG”), the umbrella organization for his diverse business and investment portfolio.
Among the companies under ECG are:
Entrepreneurial Properties Corporation and D.R.R. Properties, Inc., owners of over 13,500 apartment units in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas, along with interests in other real estate investments.
Entrepreneurial Investment Corporation and Entrepreneurial Capital Corporation, private capital investment companies focused on investments in national and international private equity and venture capital funds, direct private placements, publicly traded debt and equity securities, home building and real estate limited partnerships.
Entrepreneurial Food Group, LLC, owner of three food manufacturing companies in the United Kingdom, with 900 employees.
On December 24, 1992, Duane acquired the National Historic Landmark Mission Inn hotel in Riverside, and opened its doors six days later. Once referred to as “the most unique hotel in America” by Will Rogers, the Mission Inn was closed for seven and a half years, considered too risky and imprudent an investment by hospitality experts. Today the Mission Inn is considered both a community and financial success.
Duane received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Pacific University at Forest Grove, Oregon, for his entrepreneurial achievements in the food industry. He is the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Inland Empire Business Press Spirit Entrepreneur 2005 “Lifetime Achievement” award; the City of Riverside 1998 – 1999 “Citizen of the Year” award; and INC Magazine 1993 “Master Entrepreneur of the Year” award.
In addition, Duane has held numerous appointments, including one by President George W. Bush, who has just appointed him as a member of the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. He currently serves on the UC Riverside Foundation Board of Trustees, and is President of the Riverside Humane Society.
Duane founded and endowed the Mary S. Roberts Foundation in honor of the memory of his mother. The Mary S. Roberts Foundation is a standing testimony to Duane and Kelly’s commitment to helping children with special needs, families of victims of crime, the hungry and homeless, and the care and protection of domestic animals. It would be difficult indeed to find an organization or an individual in need in the Inland Empire community that has not been touched by the generosity of the Mary S. Roberts Foundation.
His wife, Kelly, has enjoyed a significant level of success as well, and together, the husband and wife team make for a formidable partnership. A devoted wife and a loving mother of two, Kelly is both family orientated as well as a savvy, well-respected businesswoman. As the vice-chairman of the board of the Mission Inn, she is the visionary behind Kelly’s Spa, and oversees the ongoing $20 million refurbishment and expansion of the 104-year-old Historic Landmark hotel.
Merging her interests in fashion, philanthropy and business she devotes much of her time and energy to causes that ring true to her heart and ultimately hopes to better the lives of unfortunate people struggling in today’s difficult world.
For the past thirteen years, Kelly has been heavily involved in The Olive Crest Abused Children’s Foundation, an organization dedicated to preventing child abuse, treating victims of child abuse and preserving the family through innovative and comprehensive programs. Kelly is also a member of the Loma Linda Children’s Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees, and the University of Riverside Foundation Board of Trustees.
Kelly graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Southern California and holds a degree in law, and has just been appointed to the California Council on Criminal Justice by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.