Haas Alumnus and Donor Harold Furst Passes Away

Harold FurstHarold Furst, BS 39 (Econ.), MBA 45, a Bay Area businessman, philanthropist, and one of the initial business advisers to rock promoter Bill Graham, passed away June 28 in Oakland. He was 94.

During his long career, Furst worked in banking and real estate development and volunteered to support a wide variety of civic organizations. He earned his undergraduate degree and MBA at Berkeley and served as a member of the UC Berkeley business school faculty from 1943 to 1952.

After earning a PhD from Stanford, Hurst became Bank of America’s first economist. He went on to work as an officer of Bank of America for more than 20 years until 1972, when he became president of Gerson Bakar & Associates, a San Francisco property development and management company founded by another Haas alumnus, Gerson Bakar, BS 48. Furst worked for Bakar until 1975.

Furst met the late Bill Graham in 1975 when the late William Coblentz, a friend and former Haas adjunct faculty member, recruited Furst as a volunteer business adviser to Graham, then a young rock music promoter. Graham ran the Fillmore Auditorium and Winterland Ballroom, while Furst instilled order to the enterprise, established new accounting procedures, and recognized the potential for making a profit from band merchandise.

In 1989, thanks to a generous gift from Furst, the Haas School of Business established the Harold Furst Chair in Management Philosophy and Values, the only rotating chair for an outstanding junior faculty member. Many of the former chair holders have become prominent scholars and renowned senior faculty: Jonathan Leonard, Benjamin Hermalin, Jennifer Chatman, Ganesh Iyer, and Laura Kray. Associate Professor Ernesto Dal Bó currently holds the Furst Chair.

In 1992, Furst became executive vice president of Sony’s merchandise division, and retired from that job seven years later.

In his civic life, Furst served a long list of organizations, including the California Public Utilities Commission; UC Berkeley Art Museum; committees for San Francisco, Contra Costa, and Placer counties; the city of El Cerrito; and Gov. Edmund G. Brown’s Business Advisory Council, which he served as secretary.

Furst is survived by his wife, Alice Coopersmith Furst; a son and three stepchildren; and five grandchildren.

Donations in Furst’s memory may be made to the Harold Furst Student Loan Fund, Berkeley Student Cooperative, 2424 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA 94709-1296; or to Larkin Street Youth Services, 701 Sutter St., San Francisco, CA 94109.