Community - June 23, 2010

Obituary: John Beckett, former president of Transamerica Corp.

John R. (Jack) Beckett, president and chairman of the board of Transamerica Corp. from 1960 to 1983, died June 17. He was 92.

He resided in Atherton for 55 years.

Mr. Beckett was instrumental in choosing what was at the time a radical design for the Transamrica Pyramid in San Francisco, steering it through a controversial permitting process, and overseeing its construction, said his daughter Belinda Beckett.

During his tenure at Transamerica, the company owned motion picture distributor United Artists, Transamerica Airline, Budget Rent-a-Car Company and De Laval Turbine, in addition to Occidental Life Insurance and Transamerica's many other insurance and financial services.

A native of San Francisco, he received two degrees from Stanford University, a bachelor's degree in 1939 and a master's in economics in 1940.

"He loved to play and compose music for the piano and liked nothing better than to end each day 'tinkling the ivories' with lovely music," she said. "He was an avid tennis player and a voracious reader."

He served on the boards of many civic organizations, including the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Symphony. He served as president of the board of the Crystal Springs Uplands School, and served a year as chairman of the San Francisco Bay Area United Crusade.

He was chairman and a member of the U.S. State Department's Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee on International Business Problems from 1968 to 1974.

Mr. Becket was preceded in death by his first wife, Dian Calkin Beckett.

He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Marjorie Beckett of Atherton; daughters Brenda Beckett of Friday Harbor, Washington, and Belinda Beckett of Sacramento; stepsons Ted of Los Angeles and Donald Abenheim of Menlo Park; and grand-daughters Diana Beckett-Hile of Mill Valley and Sarah Beckett-Hile of San Francisco.

No services are planned.

The family suggests gifts in his memory be made to Dr. Michael Fowler's Heart Failure Research at Stanford University, Salk Building Room 295, 300 Pasteur Drive, Stanford, CA 94305.


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