John Freidenrich portrait

John Freidenrich (Image credit: Glenn Matsumura)

Prominent Stanford leader and donor John Freidenrich, an alumnus who had been involved with the university for more than 40 years, died Oct. 11 at Stanford Hospital. He was 80.

Freidenrich, who was a successful lawyer and venture capitalist, had served as chair of the Board of Trustees as well as a director of Stanford University Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. In addition, he and his wife, Jill, actively supported many initiatives at Stanford throughout his life.

“John was a beloved and cherished friend to many of us at Stanford University and at Stanford Health Care,” wrote Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Board of Trustees Chair Jeffrey Raikes in a note informing the Stanford community of the news. “John combined decades of distinguished volunteer leadership at Stanford University and Stanford Medicine with exemplary stewardship and invaluable counsel.”

A life of generosity

Freidenrich’s generosity and commitment to Stanford spanned the tenures of four university presidents and more than 40 years.

In the 1970s, he and Jill, who is also a Stanford alumna, began providing funding and helped raise money to support a range of university priorities, from athletics and undergraduate scholarships to law, art and medicine. The couple met while they were students at Stanford.

In the late 1980s, Freidenrich was a national co-chair of the major gifts committee of Stanford’s five-year Centennial Campaign, which raised nearly $1.3 billion. After the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the Cantor Arts Center, John and Jill Freidenrich contributed money to rebuild the center and endow its directorship. The couple was also part of the capital funding campaign that helped create Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, founded in 1991.

Most recently, in October 2012, Stanford University Medical Center opened the Jill and John Freidenrich Center for Translational Research, created with a $25 million donation from the couple, to conduct research that translates basic science discoveries into treatments and diagnostics. The concept for the center was inspired by Jill Freidenrich’s own experience. She survived breast cancer after being diagnosed in 1991.

“Stanford is one of the few places where this is possible,” John Freidenrich said in a 2011 interview of the couple’s efforts in helping drive the future of medicine. “There are many talented people in different disciplines all on one campus. They are bright, tireless and collaborative, and once they get together, incredible things happen.”

Aside from donating money, Freidenrich also donated his time through volunteering and serving in various leadership positions at the university.

Between 1984 and 1992, Freidenrich led both Stanford University Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital as director. He was a member of the university’s Board of Trustees for a decade, serving as chair between 1992 and 1996. He also served on numerous boards from the Law School to the School of Medicine to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

In 1987 Freidenrich was awarded the Gold Spike Award for distinguished volunteer leadership service to the university by Stanford Associates, an honorary organization of alumni who have been identified as the university’s top volunteers. He and Jill have been honored with Stanford Associates’ Governors’ Award and Degree of Uncommon Man and Uncommon Woman, and the School of Medicine’s Dean’s Medal.

“As we mourn John’s passing, we can be grateful for having known such an extraordinary person, perhaps best known for his selfless service and dedication and for a life well-lived with deep meaning and purpose,” Tessier-Lavigne and Raikes wrote. “John showed tremendous confidence in Stanford as his alma mater, and may we honor his memory by continuing our work that he so valued in service to society.”

Local resident gives back

Born in San Francisco and raised in Palo Alto, Freidenrich graduated with two degrees from Stanford – a bachelor’s in economics in 1959 and a law degree in 1963. His father, David Freidenrich, was also an alumnus of Stanford’s undergraduate program and the law school.

In 1968, John Freidenrich started the law firm of Ware & Freidenrich, which is now part of DLA Piper, focusing on catering to the needs of start-up companies. Later, he founded the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Bay Partners and led the company for over a quarter century. Most recently, he co-founded the Regis Management Company, a multibillion-dollar portfolio manager and investment adviser, and served as the company’s chairman.

Family members describe Freidenrich as a gentle, hardworking and visionary person.

“My father’s accomplishments were vast and seemingly endless,” said his daughter, Gail Marks, in an email. “Despite his tremendous success, he never stopped being that nice young man from his beloved and lifelong hometown of Palo Alto. He was the personification of small-town boy made good.

“His joy came from helping others. His life was one of duty and purpose and doing. Humility and kindness were his calling cards.”

In lieu of flowers, the Freidenrich family asks that donations be made in his name to Stanford University for “The John Freidenrich Memorial Fund for Stanford Medicine,” to Palo Alto nonprofit Bay Area Cancer Connections and to San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation.

Freidenrich is survived by his wife of 54 years, Jill; his children Gail Marks and Eric Freidenrich, and their spouses Andrew and Amy; his brothers David and Dennis Freidenrich; and his six grandchildren: Jacqueline, Danielle, Theodore, Lucille, Beverly and Sylvia.

An event celebrating Freidenrich’s life will be announced by his family at a later date.