James F. Dickason, former president of The Newhall Land and Farming Co., died Sunday in Reno, Nev. A resident of San Marino, Dickason, 79, was considered a leader in the development of Valencia during his years as chief executive with Newhall Land from 1969 to 1987.
Sources said Dickason suffered a stroke while vacationing in Tahoe with his family two weeks prior to his death. He was later admitted to Washoe Medical hospital in Reno. Officials had not confirmed the cause of death at press time. Funeral services will be held in Pasadena pending family arrangements.
A Harvard undergraduate and a graduate of Stanford Graduate School of Business, Dickason began his career with Newhall Land as a young executive in 1951 with the White Investment Company in his native San Francisco. He was recruited by Atholl McBean, then president of Newhall Land. Dickason later joined the company's executive ranks in 1963, where he became a leader in developing Valencia in the 1960s.
Dickason served as the president of Newhall Land from 1971 to 1985. During his years as president, he also served as chairman of the board from 1979 to 1985, and continued to serve on the board until 1995.
Dickason was an active alumnus of Stanford, heading up numerous fund-raising projects, raising billions of dollars for Stanford in the late 1980s.
Community members expressed sadness upon hearing the news of Dickason's passing. Long-time friend Ruth Newhall said Dickason was a charismatic leader and a constructive force in the community.
"He will be sorely missed by the community and everyone who knew him," Newhall said.
Connie Worden-Roberts, past president of the SCV Chamber of Commerce, knew Dickason and said he was a giant in the community.
"Jim was at the helm of Newhall Land and Farming during the critical years of the development of Valencia," Worden-Roberts said. "He was a very nice man and a strong leader who stood up for what he believed in — he will be greatly missed."
Marlee Lauffer, Newhall Land's vice president of corporate communications, said Dickason was quick to see the potential of creating a quality community on the property of Newhall Land.
"His entire career was devoted to the growth of Newhall Land — he had extraordinary insight and great business skills," Lauffer said. "We are very saddened by his passing and grateful for his major contributions to the community — he was a very talented and creative leader."