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.

Former Business School Dean John Cowee Dies

John Cowee, former dean at the University of California, Berkeley business school, died on May 15, 2010, at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, at the age of 91 of natural causes.

Cowee served from 1961 to 1966 as the seventh dean of the business school, which was later named the Haas School of Business. Under Cowee's leadership, management education at UC Berkeley was expanded to include more international coursework and to be more closely integrated with the social sciences.

"He was a risk taker," said Cowee's son, John Cowee Jr. "He tended to be forward looking in everything he did."

During Cowee's deanship, the school created its first international business curriculum. At the time, the only international business course offered focused on foreign exchange. Cowee also helped found the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he developed links between Asia and the University of California. At UC Berkeley, business education continued during Cowee's tenure to move toward greater integration of the social sciences into the business curriculum as recommended in the1959 Ford Foundation and Carnegie Corporation reports.

Raymond Miles, who was the business school dean from 1982 to 1990, was recruited by Cowee as a professor. Miles says he respected him immensely. "John's care and concern was a factor in my decision to come to Berkeley," Miles said.

"John handled both the duties of the office and the social hosting of the faculty with what seemed to a young scholar to be amazingly easy. John even made the move into Barrows Hall (from sharing space in Wheeler and South Halls) appear a major achievement, which in fact, at that time, was not without some truth," Miles added. "John left while I was away on a visiting appointment and I regretted then and still do that I did not have the opportunity to thank him for his service to the school and his kindnesses to me."

A World War II veteran, Cowee received a Bronze Star for his service in the US Army in the South Pacific. After the war, he earned his PhD in business and LLB (law degree) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Cowee came to UC Berkeley as a professor in 1953 and taught business and insurance law at the law school before becoming dean at the business school. Cowee left UC Berkeley in 1966 under what his son, John Cowee Jr. described as "political circumstances." At the time, Cowee favored the students' Free Speech Movement that was opposed by Gov. Ronald Reagan, who ordered state funding cuts and National Guard troops to campus.

"I knew I could not work for a board of regents that treated Clark Kerr the way it did," Cowee said in an interview earlier this year. (Kerr was UC Berkeley's first chancellor and later a UC president. The UC Regents fired Kerr for his sympathetic attitude toward student demonstrations while Reagan was governor.)

From 1968 to 1974, Cowee returned to his home state of Wisconsin and became vice president for finance and provost at Marquette University in Milwaukee. In 1975, the University of Colorado regents invited Cowee to serve as the first chancellor of that university's Health Sciences Center. Cowee accepted the job and helped develop the University of Colorado Hospital. He retired in 1984.

For the past 25 years, Cowee has lived in Colorado, serving as a board director for more than 50 organizations, including the Children's Diabetes Foundation at Denver, the Wisconsin Heart Association, and the American Board for Medical Advancement in China.

Cowee is survived by his wife, Nancy; sons John Cowee Jr. of Albany, California, and Jeff Cowee of Phoenix, Arizona; daughter Susan McCarthy of Chicago, Illinois; and three grandchildren.

Haas School Alumnus and Friend Don Fisher Dies

Don FisherDon Fisher, BS 51, chairman emeritus and founder of Gap Inc., passed away Sunday, Sept. 27, at the age of 81, following a long battle with cancer. Fisher was a long-time member of the Haas Board, which advises the dean on strategic and policy innovations, and recently served as the board’s chair.

“Don believed that education is the single most important social responsibility we have,” said Dean Rich Lyons. “Don was always there for me — with advice and deep perspective. His legacy will be part of Haas forever. We will miss him greatly.”

Don and wife, Doris, Fisher gave $5 million to establish both the Fisher Center for Real Estate and Urban Planning and the Fisher Center for the Strategic Use of Information Technology at Haas. They made several generous gifts to the Haas School’s building campaign. The Doris and Don Fisher Gate, the western entrance to our Haas campus, was named in their honor. They also gave generously to several UC Berkeley causes, most prominently the Athletics Department.

Don and Doris Fisher opened their first Gap store in 1969 on San Francisco’s Ocean Avenue. They built the company into one of the world’s leading apparel retailers, with other brands and stores including GapKids, Banana Republic, and Old Navy. Fisher retired as Gap’s chairman in 2004, the year the company’s sales peaked at $16.3 billion. He remained a member of the board with the title chairman emeritus.

Fisher served on the board of trustees of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and was a director of the Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco, as well as a governor of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. He was a member of the California State Board of Education and a director of EdVoice, KIPP Charter Public Schools, and Teach for America.

Since 2003, the Fishers have hosted the San Francisco Haas Alumni Celebration at Gap headquarters every spring, inviting the Haas community to hear thought-provoking conversations with leading-edge speakers and to enjoy the Fisher’s renowned collection of modern art, part of which is on display in the building.

In recognition of his professional achievements and support of the Haas and Berkeley , Fisher was honored in 1986 as the Haas School Alumnus of the Year and was named the California Alumni Association’s Alumnus of the Year in 2007 — the highest honor given to a graduate of UC Berkeley.

He is survived by his wife, Doris, also a great friend to the Haas School, and their three sons and ten grandchildren.

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