Roy Ash, Public Servant, Philanthropist, and Business Leader, Dies at 93

Roy Ash, one of largest single donors to Harvard Kennedy School, died on December 14, 2011, from Parkinson’s disease at his home in Los Angeles. He was 93.

In 2003, Roy and his wife Lila endowed the Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard Kennedy School. Their gift allowed the School to enhance its existing Innovations in American Government Awards Program by emphasizing the connection between innovation and democratic governance. The Ash Center now devotes much of its resources towards understanding the practices and mechanisms required to establish, sustain, and deepen democracy around the world.

“We have to consider the concept of democracy fragile and in need of real, constant hands-on care,” said Roy Ash at the inauguration of the Ash Center. “The purpose of the Institute [now Center] is to encourage thoughtful and focused attention to the nature, principles, functioning, and continued innovation and adaptations essential to a living and effective democracy.”

Roy Ash dedicated his career to serving the public good in both business and government, as well as through extensive philanthropic endeavors.

In 1953, Ash co-founded Litton Industries and as both director and president until 1972 presided over its growth to a multibillion-dollar business made up of over 100 companies. The company is now owned by Northup Grumman.

Ash served as President Nixon’s chairman of the President’s Advisory Council on Executive Organization and was appointed the third director of the Office of Management of Budget in 1972. He served in this position under President Ford until 1975. In this capacity he oversaw the creation of a number of new federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency.

Born in Los Angeles on October 20, 1918, Roy Ash enlisted in the US Army Air Forces in 1942 and served in the statistics department. He later graduated first in his class at Harvard Business School, despite never going to college.

Ash is survived by his wife Lila, sons Charles, James, and Robert, daughters Loretta Danko and Marilyn Hanna, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.