Williams-Sonoma Chairman Emeritus and Haas Benefactor Howard Lester Passes Away

Williams-Sonoma Chairman Emeritus Howard Lester, a longtime friend of the Haas School, passed away Monday, Nov. 16, at his home in Indian Wells, Calif., after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.

Lester spent 32 years at Williams-Sonoma, which he bought in 1978. He was instrumental in transforming the company from one brand with four stores eking out $4 million in annual sales into a one of the world's largest specialty retailers with more than $3.4 billion in annual revenue today.

The Haas School named Lester business leader of the year in 2003. He served on the Haas School Board, an advisory board to the dean, and in 1991 endowed the school's Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which was named in his honor. More recently, in 2008, Lester gave $1 million to the center to continue promoting and cultivating entrepreneurship and innovation management at UC Berkeley.

"Howard Lester was the catalyst behind our school’s Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, which he helped establish as a leading force for entrepreneurship around the world," said Dean Rich Lyons. "Berkeley-Haas will miss him and his generous spirit dearly."

Read more about Lester in the winter 2004 issue of CalBusiness or on the Williams-Sonoma website.

Funeral and Mass will be held at St. Ignatius Catholic Church, 650 Parker St., San Francisco, on Sunday, Nov. 21 at 2 p.m., followed by a reception at Delancey Street, 600 Embarcadero St., San Francisco.