About the Lester Center
Lester Center Resources:
|Program Guides for:
MBA Special Interest Guides:
- Interest in Venture Capital
- Interest in Biotechnology/Technology Enterprises
- Interest in Social Entrepreneurship
- Lester Center Reading List
- Bay Area Organizations
- Bay Area Incubators
- Entrepreneurial On-Line Columns and Blogs
The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship is an internationally recognized program and the primary locus at Berkeley for the study and promotion of entrepreneurship and new enterprise development.
The Lester Center is supported and advised by a distinguished faculty and advisory board.
The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship was founded in 1991 through a gift from W. Howard Lester, Chairman of Williams-Sonoma, Inc.
The Lester Center:
- fosters teaching of successful entrepreneurship and innovation,
- encourages Berkeley students in the creation of new businesses,
- conducts research and disseminates knowledge on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial finance to the business and university communities, and
- facilitates interaction between the entrepreneurial community and the university.
The center's constituency beyond the university consists of the founders, owners, and managers of innovative and high-growth companies, their investors and advisers, and young entrepreneurs. Within the university, it is an interdisciplinary, campuswide research center with public programs designed to be a resource to the campus and beyond. Over the years, students and faculty, especially those in business, engineering, computer science, law, and the biosciences, have led in developing the center's programs.
The Lester Center's founding benefactor, W. Howard Lester died Monday, November 15, 2010 at his home in Indian Wells, California after a 13-year long battle with cancer. He was a business icon, who for over 32 years guided the development and success of the Williams-Sonoma, Inc. portfolio of brands. Howard strove to improve the lives of others through his philanthropy. With his wife Mary, they supported education, medical research, youth programs and the arts. In 1991, he founded The Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation within the Haas School of Business at the University at California, Berkeley, which now carries on his legacy of business enterprise.
Howard served as CEO from 1978 until 2001.
Howard spent the first 20 years of his career in the software industry. He began selling computers in 1958 and soon left to form a computer services company at the age of 25. He later sold his company to a larger company in Los Angeles. Five years later, he bought another software firm, Centurex, which became the major provider of software to commercial banks. After selling the company in 1976, he “retired”, only to purchase Williams-Sonoma a short time later.
In 1978 Williams-Sonoma was a very small four million dollar annual sales company. Today it approaches three billion dollars in sales, with multiple brands serving the home, including Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and Pottery Barn Teen, Hold Everything, Chambers and West Elm.
He served on many industry and philanthropic boards during his career including International Association of Shopping Centers, the Retail Institute of Santa Clara University, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Boy Scouts of America and was a national trustee of 1st Tee.
Howard was born and raised in Oklahoma and attended the University of Oklahoma. He was elected to the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2001.
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