Irvine loses ‘a great visionary leader’ with the passing of Raymond Watson, 86

Raymond Watson, who played a major role in shaping the City of Irvine as chief planner for the Irvine Company in the 1960s and ’70s, has died, according to news reports. He was 86.

Watson, who succumbed to complications of Parkinson’s disease at his Newport Beach home, was a towering presence in Orange County, serving as president and CEO of the Irvine Company from 1973 through 1977 and chairman of the Walt Disney Company in the 1980s.

His influence on the City of Irvine – and ultimately IUSD – can’t be overstated. Stan Corey, IUSD’s founding superintendent, had this to say:

“Irvine has lost a great visionary leader. Ray Watson fought for 10 years to preserve the possibility that the Irvine Ranch could become a city with nearly common boundaries for the city and school district.  Later, as president of the Irvine Company, he helped us all to grasp the concept of what Irvine could become.

“Ray was our partner in building IUSD. He provided inspiration and help of all kinds, and continuously kept the school district involved, supported and informed as the community developed. Ray knew that superior schools would be needed if Irvine were to become the city he envisioned. He therefore provided every support possible to help realize that dream.

“One of the richest parts of my experience in IUSD was my association with Ray Watson. We have lost a giant.”

A memorial service is planned for Nov. 11, according to The Orange County Register, which has the full story on Mr. Watson here. You can also read the Los Angeles Times’ coverage by clicking here.