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OCBJ INSIDER

Spectrum Brands Inc. offers students and prospective future employees an internship program at the Madison, Wis.-based global consumer products company, which counts Lake Forest as the base for its nearly 500-person Hardware and Home Improvement division, home to brands like Kwikset and Pfister.

Two top local executives at the $2.5 billion-valued company (NYSE: SPB) are also heavily involved in the Orange County educational arena.

HHI Division VP and General Counsel Paul Bokata—a Business Journal General Counsel Award winner in 2018—is serving his second term as a board member of Irvine Unified School District and is up for a third term this year. He got an endorsement from the Irvine Teachers Association last week.

Also running for a school board spot this year in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District is Krista Weigand, a national account manager at Spectrum Brands and longtime Newport Beach resident. She’s also a mother of 5-year-old twins who are enrolled—online for now—at Mariners Elementary.

“Today was hard on most families because it was not what they envisioned” for the first day of school, she said in a social media post. A recent campaign piece written by Weigand in the Daily Pilot noted that school “must not and cannot continue remotely.”

“While the fear of getting sick is understandable, the district must prepare for a return of in-class instruction sooner rather than later,” wrote Weigand, who has the endorsement of OC Sheriff Don Barnes.

Greenlaw Partners founder and Principal Wil Smith has a knack for timing—his Irvine-based real estate firm was among the more opportunistic investors in area commercial properties following the last market downturn—and for keeping a low profile.

The same could be said about his giving.

Last week, Smith finalized a $10 million donation to USC, where he received a master’s degree in real estate development in 1999.

The gift was disclosed last Wednesday, the same day that California State University-Fullerton grabbed its share of headlines by announcing an end to its relationship with alumnus Steve Mihaylo, and that it was taking his name off its business school, citing a $22 million unfulfilled philanthropic commitment.

CSUF “did not keep its commitments to me,” Mihaylo replied, in a statement provided to the Business Journal. He felt the school had a bias against conservative thought.

Smith’s donation establishes the Wilbur H. Smith III Department of Real Estate Development at USC’s Price School of Public Policy. Half the money is going to scholarships, with the remainder going to faculty support.

USC “already has the No. 1 real estate curriculum in the U.S.,” Smith, a frequent guest lecturer at the school and a mentor to graduate students there, told the Business Journal last week.

“If we can do more to hire faculty and give them support staff, it will be the best [real estate] program in the country.”

His primary stipulation for the donation: he asked the school not to widely publicize the gift, citing a desire to keep his name out of the national press.

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Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.
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