Marilyn Beaudry-Corbett: Determination Paves Her Road to Philanthropy

Marilyn Beaudry-Corbett and her husband, Donald Corbett, in front of the Schlesinger Library, Photo by Kevin GradyMarilyn Beaudry-Corbett and her husband, Donald Corbett, in front of the Schlesinger Library, Photo by Kevin Grady
By Mark Graney, assistant director, donor relations and communications

When Marilyn Beaudry-Corbett HRP ’54 sets her mind to something, she usually accomplishes it. After graduating from the University of Southern California in 1953, she sought a career in business and received a scholarship to Radcliffe’s Management Training Program. A native Angeleno and only child, Beaudry-Corbett remembers sharing a house with 12 women in Cambridge as being “quite a different environment,” but she credits Radcliffe with helping her launch a successful career. 

Upon returning to Los Angeles, she quickly rose through the ranks at Audience Studies Incorporated, an influential marketing research firm, and traveled around the globe as the company expanded. “I was supposed to go to London for six weeks, and it ended up being six months,” she says, “but I didn’t mind at all.” In her travels, Beaudry-Corbett developed an interest in archaeology and began taking extension courses at UCLA. By the time she was a top executive at the company, she had begun to wonder whether she wanted to continue working at the same pace for another 15 to 20 years. In the end, she decided she’d much rather be an archaeologist.  

A call with a graduate advisor at UCLA was less than encouraging (mid-career businesswomen fell outside the typical applicant pool), but Beaudry-Corbett was undeterred. She penned a letter to a professor of archaeology and looked up his office hours. “I told my staff that I was taking a long lunch hour, drove out to UCLA, got in line with the other real students, and sat down and introduced myself,” she says. The professor was receptive and recommended that she continue taking courses and get involved in local archaeology groups. The next year, Beaudry-Corbett was accepted into UCLA’s Interdepartmental Archaeology Graduate Program, where she went on to earn her PhD.

After stints as a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution and a senior Fulbright scholar in Honduras, Beaudry-Corbett returned to UCLA, where she met Donald Corbett, a dentist who shared her passion for archaeology and enrolled in one of her courses. Shortly after a call made under dubious pretenses—“I thought he was calling to ask about his independent project,” she says, and “he was calling about his independent project, but that was me”—the two became engaged during a trip to Guatemala, where Beaudry-Corbett was conducting fieldwork. 

In retirement, Beaudry-Corbett has started another new chapter: philanthropist. Driven by a desire to provide women with the same opportunities that she had, she has endowed a chair of Mesoamerican archaeology at UCLA, scholarships for women over 30 pursuing MBA degrees at USC, and now the Marilyn Beaudry-Corbett Schlesinger Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute.

Her $2 million gift to the Institute will support scholars in its fellowship program who are working on projects related to American women’s lives. Beaudry-Corbett and her husband are passionate supporters of libraries and long-serving members of the Culinary Historians of Southern California, and she was motivated by the opportunity to support Radcliffe fellows working with the Schlesinger’s collections. 

Beaudry-Corbett’s gift dovetails with the Schlesinger’s Long 19th Amendment Project, a four-year initiative commemorating the centennial of women’s suffrage that is being supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

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