No one knew it at the time, but two brothers in the Class of 1951 belonged to one of the richest families in the country. Both Gordon Getty II and John Paul Getty, Jr., however, didn’t grow up wealthy. Their mother, Ann, had divorced J. Paul Getty, and, according to Gordon’s good friend and classmate Judge William Newsom ’51, “they knew they had a rich, even very rich father, but as he had almost no influence upon their lives, one didn’t hear much about him…. Neither Paul nor Gordon seemed particularly concerned about money or the lack of it — nor did they seem to dwell on expectations.” Music became a greater part of Gordon’s life, and he collected operatic records. The yearbook noted that Gordon came to SI from San Rafael Military Academy where he spent time as a debater. “However, he found time to take an active part in the Fathers’ Club Talent Show. As yet he is undecided as to college or profession.” His brother went from a wild childhood to a “serious conversion thanks to the Jesuits of St. Ignatius” though he never graduated from the school.18
On February 24, 1958, Time ran a cover story on J. Paul Getty, ranking him as one of the world’s richest men, and Gordon was thrust into the spotlight. He eventually became a noted composer, writing the opera PlumpJack based on the character of Falstaff, a 32-song cycle of Emily Dickinson’s poems entitled TheWhite Election and a play based on Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher. He has shown great generosity with his many gifts to SI and the art community over the years, and has served the school as a member of the Board of Regents since the 1980s.
Gordon’s brother, “Sir Paul,” as he was known in England, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986 for his charitable work. He was proud of that title because he loved the rich traditions of England, a love he noted that grew from his days as a student in America “where I was captured by the romance of English history and Shakespeare,” according to a 1998 interview with the Sunday Telegraph. He died at 70 in 2003.