Palo Alto Weekly

Community Pulse - January 8, 2010

Robert R. Augsburger dies Dec. 31

Former Stanford vice president and open-space leader dies of brain tumor

Robert R. "Bob" Augsburger, a former vice president of Stanford University and the first executive director of the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), died Dec. 31 at his Portola Valley home of a brain tumor. He was 83.

He was raised in Canton, Ohio, graduated from Purdue University and Case Western Reserve University Law School. He worked for the Glidden Company in Cleveland as director of financial relations and manager of corporate pension funds.

In 1963 he became vice president for the investment firm of Donaldson, Lufkin, & Jenrette in New York. He was instrumental in taking DLJ public in 1970, making it the first publicly traded investment firm in the United States.

In 1971, heentered into his longstanding relationship with Stanford as vice president of business and finance. He had to walk the line between student dissent, conservative stakeholders and faculty members that objected to his private-sector views.

He supervised Stanford's significant real estate holdings. In 1972 and 1973, he worked with McAndrews to renovate and expand Stanford Shopping Center, a major income source for the university — transforming it into one of the nation's most upscale shopping destinations.

As a Portola Valley resident, he developed an appreciation for nearby open spaces, including Stanford lands such as "the Dish" and Webb Ranch. His vision of land use, following the Columbia "New Town" model, was to condense development in quasi-urban centers to preserve open space elsewhere.

This led him to join Ward Paine in 1977 in founding POST, a nonprofit organization that links landowners, donors and government agencies — working closely with the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD).

As POST's first executive director, he established priority lists for land acquisition . He put POST on the map with two important projects, including Windy Hill, where "Bob's Bench" (his preference rather than his full name) provides a place for hiker's to rest and take in the views.

In 1982, he was instrumental in creation of the Land Trust Exchange, a national organization of private land trusts now known as the Land Trust Alliance, representing 1,700 land trusts that have protected more than 37 million acres.

Ausgburger also was active in other non-profit organizations, serving as a trustee of Hidden Villa, an educational organization in Los Altos Hills, and as President of the Children's Health Council board. An opera and theatre enthusiast, he served as senior adviser for National Arts Stabilization, an arts -management group to help art organizations build a strategic foundation for funding.

In recent years, he served as a lecturer at Stanford's Graduate School of Business (GSB), teaching courses in nonprofit management.

In retirement, he served as an officer of the Stanford Historical Society — his pet project was the history of the Stanford endowment fund. Prior to his death, he was collecting material on the important financial developments that have made education possible at Stanford and had hoped to write a book on the subject. He also served on the advisory board of the Stanford GSB Oral History Program.

In his final home at the Sequoias retirement community in Portola Valley — adjacent to the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve — he worked to develop onsite assisted living and memory facilities for Sequoias residents.

In his one-year term as president of the Residents' Council, Augsburger was responsible for a major overhaul and reinvigoration of the Sequoias committee system. He played on the lawn-bowling team and was a member of the Tuesday night poker group, and was known for his outlandish costumes at the annual Sequoias Halloween party.

he is survived by his wife of 59 years, Jean Ann Augsburger; sons David and John; daughter Jane McLaughlin; and four grandchildren, Patrick, Ian, Carolyne and Sabina.

A memorial service is pending.

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