Better known as Brad Corbett ’60, the Bronx native was impossible not to know, in circles from New York to Texas and beyond. He came to Wagner College in 1957, transferring after a semester at Siena. He majored in economics, but (by his own admission, in a 1979 commencement address) was remembered more as an Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity brother and intramural football and basketball nut than as an academic whiz. At Wagner, he met Gunnie Grunde ’60, an education major and Homecoming Queen, and they married right after graduation.
He served three years in the U.S. Marine Corps and then went to work for Allied Chemical Corporation. In 1967, he left Allied Chemical with a couple of his colleagues and started his own business of manufacturing PVC pipe in Fort Worth, Texas. Universal Pipe and Plastics Inc., which he launched with a $300,000 Small Business Loan, quickly took off the ground. It merged with Robintech and became a $50 million business in the early 1970s, claiming the title of the largest PVC pipe manufacturer in the world.
Then came Major League Baseball. With a group of investors, of which he was the principal, Corbett bought the Texas Rangers in 1974. He breathed new life into the franchise, packing the stadium but eventually also angering fans by his penchant for trading players and firing managers. However, over his six seasons of ownership, the team progressed from a losing record to four winning seasons, including two second-place finishes in the American League West. He was friends with George Steinbrenner, the legendary Yankees owner to whom he is often compared. After selling his share in the Rangers in 1980, he started another company, which became the world’s largest supplier of pipe-sealing systems.
Corbett took great pride in Wagner College. He received the Alumni Achievement Award in 1972 and served on the Board of Trustees twice (1972–80, 1986–89).
He died on December 24, 2012, and his funeral was attended by friends from around the world. “He was a very creative, visionary kind of person, and good at fulfilling his ideas, and very hard-working,” says Gunnie Corbett. “Like many entrepreneurs, his business was his life.”