Trustee Anthony LaFetra remembered for his love of learning

Taylor Moore
Staff Writer

Anthony LaFetra, University of La Verne trustee and president and chief executive of the Rain Bird Corporation, died on Jan. 29 from an undiagnosed cancer. He was 80.

The announcement of his death came from his family. 

Mr. LaFetra joined the Rain Bird Corporation in 1964. He originally served as a plant manager, vice president, and executive vice president, according to the Rain Bird Corporation. In 1978, he replaced his mother, Mary E. LaFetra, as president and CEO.

As a first generation college student, who graduated from Stanford University, Mr. LaFetra wanted to give other students the same opportunity he had received, said ULV President Devorah Lieberman. 

Lieberman said that Mr. LaFetra had expressed interest in getting involved with the University over meetings with Lieberman, since ULV had been in his life since he was a boy. 

He had told her that he had attended the Glendora School District, and almost all of his teachers were ULV graduates. These teachers played an important role in Mr. LaFetra eventually achieving the success that he did, he said. 

In 2016, Mr. LaFetra donated $10 million to the University for the College of Education and Organizational Leadership – the largest single donation to the University in its 130-year history – and the college was renamed the LaFetra College of Education. 

Kimberly White-Smith, dean of the LaFetra College of Education, said that his teachers took the time to sit with him and helped him understand his strengths as a learner, telling him, “You are an original thinker.” White-Smith continued to explain that with their encouragement, he mustered to do well in school which led him to become not only a Stanford grad, but eventually a successful CEO. 

Mr. LaFetra is not only remembered for his success, but also for his love of learning.

Lieberman recalled that he loved nature and was always curious. She described that every few years, ULV had planned a trip of a dozen to 20 people, and he would be on every trip with her. 

She recalled that they would take trips to Montana, where everything was outdoors. 

“He loved the trip. He was always exploring,” Lieberman said. “It was a great joy for me to watch Tony LaFetra outside of work, outside of the board, and it filled him with joy.” 

Rod Leveque, University spokesman, remembered Mr. LaFetra to be a man of few words. 

“When he spoke, he had an impact,” Leveque said. “His comments were always meaningful and insightful.”

“He had a passion and compassion for our students,” said Loretta Rahmani, retired ULV dean of student affairs. “I also loved his smile and laugh.” 

Mr. La Fetra will be remembered by the LaFetra College of Education, dedicated to preparing students to become effective educators and advocates for social equity within the community. 

Both Lieberman and White-Smith described how his endowment helped fund the “overcomer” scholarship. 

“He wanted it to go to students who have persisted and have overcome tremendous obstacles in their own lives so they could continue their education,” Lieberman said.

She added that she will never forget that Mr. LaFetra used to say that “a leader’s responsibility is to change and lead the right change.” 

In return, she said to him: “Tony, you’re very successful, but you’re not just successful, you’re significant, and that’s what people will remember you for.” 

He is survived by his two children, Suzanne LaFetra Collier and Michael LaFetra, as well as his sister, Sarah Ludwick.

Taylor Moore can be reached at taylor.moore@laverne.edu.

Taylor Moore is a senior broadcast journalism major and Campus Times editor-in-chief for Spring 2024. In her sixth semester on Campus Times, she has served as the LV Life editor and social media editor twice, as well as a staff writer. She’s also worked on the University’s television news broadcast Foothill Community News as an anchor and reporter, and was a on-air personality for the University’s radio station 107.9 LeoFM.

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