UCLA Engineering Partners With Alumnus For Sports Research

James L. Easton '59 - with captionJames L. Easton ’59 funds sports engineering research with $2 million gift

James Easton ’59 recently funded research at UCLA Engineering for carbon nanotubes (CNTs), the technology that is presently used in his full-carbon bats as well as two-piece, part-carbon bats. CNTs also make up many of the full-carbon Easton cycling components and hockey sticks. These microscopic carbon CNT particles are mixed with CNT-strengthened epoxy resin that bonds the carbon fibers together, making an overall stronger composite.

“The progression to carbon composites was logical,” Easton said as he sat next to a wall displaying nearly 100 of the latest model baseball bats, and a handful of the first- generation aluminum bats, in his Van Nuys, Calif. office.

“Professionals and enthusiasts alike are always seeking a stronger, lighter, stiffer material,” commented Easton. “With carbon fiber, all those qualities are present. But carbon doesn’t like to be hit. So we had to change the lay up of the fiber, and add other materials for toughness.”

The resulting bat is both beautiful and intimidating: a recent loser of the college world series chalked the loss to the fact that the winning team was hitting Eastons.

Easton further explained that as the technologies mature, the company finds other innovations to keep its edge. “We fine tune the balance and the feel, and give the bat a bigger sweet spot,” he said.

Easton and his wife Phyllis have also been incredibly generous. The couple has supported many activities on campus, from UCLA Athletics to engineering and medical research, including the Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease, to the Easton Technical Leadership program at the Anderson School.

When asked why UCLA, Easton said, “for one, I went to UCLA in 1952, as it was a university I could afford to attend. I attribute much of my success to what I learned at UCLA and I want to give back to the university that made my education experience possible, so others may also have a UCLA experience. But also, few institutions have the capabilities and expertise of UCLA. Few universities can study carbon nanotubes for sports equipment, conduct leading-edge research in cancer and Alzheimer’s, and be home to 100 national sport championships.”

With the help of UCLA Engineering, there will soon be even more cutting-edge sporting equipment on professional fields, on the ice, and in cycling races as well as in your local sports stores, and we expect those to be Easton.

To find out how you can invest in technologies at UCLA Engineering with your philanthropic support, contact the Office of External Affairs at 310-206-0678, or e-mail Brandon Baker.