John Robert Beyster

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John Robert Beyster
Born July 26, 1924
Detroit, Michigan
Died December 22, 2014(2014-12-22) (aged 90)
La Jolla, California
Alma mater University of Michigan
Occupation Scientist, entrepreneur
Spouse(s) Betty Beyster

John Robert Beyster (July 26, 1924 – December 22, 2014), often styled J. Robert Beyster, was the founder of Science Applications International Corporation.[1] He was Chairman of the Board until his retirement in July 2004,[2] and also served as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) until November 2003. A recognized authority on national security and reactor physics, Beyster committed 35 years of his life to building SAIC on the founding tenets of employee ownership and technical excellence. In recent years, he extended this commitment to the American business community by founding two nonprofit organizations to assist organizations considering employee ownership—the Beyster Institute and the Foundation for Enterprise Development.

Beyster was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1924,[3] and grew up in Grosse Ile, Michigan. He attended school at Slocum Truax High School in Trenton, Michigan, and was salutatorian of his graduating class. As he was preparing to graduate from high school, the United States entered World War II, and he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He was sent to college at the University of Michigan, where he was enrolled in the V12 Officer Training Program. He was commissioned as an ensign, and eventually served on a destroyer based in Norfolk, Virginia before leaving the service six months later.[4] Educated at the University of Michigan (COE: BSE, MS, PhD),[5] Beyster worked as a scientist for Westinghouse Atomic Power Division on the company’s nuclear submarine program in the 1950s.[6] He soon followed many of his college associates to New Mexico to work as a research physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.[7] In 1957 he became the chairman of the Accelerator Physics Department of General Atomics where he remained until it was bought by Gulf Oil in 1968.[8]

In 1969, Beyster raised money to start Science Applications, Inc. (SAI) by investing the proceeds from selling stock he had received from General Atomic, combined with funds raised from the early employees who bought stock in the young enterprise.[9] The company was renamed Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) as it expanded its operations. Initially the company’s focus was on projects for the U.S. government related to nuclear power and weapons effects study programs. Contrary to traditional business models, Beyster designed SAIC so that ownership of the company and profits belonged to the company’s employees. This shared ownership was accompanied by shared responsibility and freedom in business development. SAIC attracted and retained highly educated (most with PhDs or Masters degrees) and motivated entrepreneurs that helped the company to grow and diversify. Today, SAIC performs projects for commercial and government customers related to information technology, systems integration and eSolutions, national and homeland security, energy, the environment, space, telecommunications, health care, and logistics. When Beyster retired as Chairman of SAIC on July 16, 2004, the company had annual revenues of $6.7 billion and more than 43,000 employees.[10]

Beyster founded the Foundation for Enterprise Development in 1986[11] "to help develop successful enterprises in the U.S. and around the world" by focusing on "advancing entrepreneurship and employee ownership through its work with technologists, entrepreneurs, executives, governments, and educators." In 2004, the Foundation launched the Beyster Institute, which is "dedicated to training, education, and consulting in employee ownership and entrepreneurship."[12]

Beyster wrote or co-authored approximately 60 publications and reports, as well as the book, The SAIC Solution: How We Built an $8 Billion Employee-Owned Technology Company, published by John Wiley & Sons in 2007.[13] A fellow of the American Nuclear Society, Beyster has served as Chairman of its Reactor Physics Division and Shielding Division. He was a fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group to the Director, Strategic Target Planning Staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He also served as Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Directors of the University of California, San Diego Foundation.[14]

Defense Advanced Research Project Agency designated Beyster an Honorary Program Manager for his distinguished contributions to the agency over his career. He also received the Engineering Manager of the Year Award in 2000 from the American Society of Engineering Management, the 2001 Spirit of San Diego Award from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Ernst & Young in 2003, and the “Supporter of Entrepreneurialism” award from Arthur Young and Venture magazine — at their Entrepreneur of the Year awards ceremony — for his efforts to support and promote entrepreneurship.[15]

In 2006, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) recognized Beyster with the Herb Klein Civic Leadership Award for his outstanding leadership in addressing regional challenges through collaboration with public, private, and civic partners. Beyster is the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the University of California, San Diego’s CONNECT program for providing 25 years of outstanding service to the community. The Horatio Alger Association for Distinguished Americans selected Beyster to be a 2008 Horatio Alger Award recipient. This honor is bestowed upon those individuals who have overcome adversity to achieve great successes through the American free enterprise system.[16]

A former naval man, Beyster enjoyed sailing and was the owner of Solutions, a Hinckley motor yacht. While Beyster was still at SAIC, the company backed and provided critical design technology to a number of U.S entries in the America's Cup race.[17]

On Wednesday, April 11, 2012, the computer science engineering building at the University of Michigan was rededicated in his name as the Bob and Betty Beyster Building. Bob and Betty Beyster married at St. Alban’s Church in Austin, Texas in 1955 and have three adult children.[18]

Beyster died at his home in La Jolla, California on December 22, 2014.[19]


  1. ^ Dr. J. Robert Beyster with Peter Economy, The SAIC Solution: How We Built an $8 Billion Employee-Owned Technology Company, John Wiley & Sons (2007) p.xiii
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  13. ^ Glass, jon w. (April 3, 2007). "SAIC creator's book touts employee ownership". The Virginian-Pilot. Retrieved 27 November 2014. Beyster, 82, retired as SAIC's chairman in July 2004. A nuclear physicist by training and a self-described "evangelist" for employee-owned companies, Beyster said he wrote the book to provide entrepreneurs and business executives a model. He wrote it with Peter Economy, an author or co-author of more than 75 business books. 
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