Longtime Atherton resident John Freidenrich -- who for decades had been a major supporter of his alma mater of Stanford University, was a well-respected attorney and invested early in many Silicon Valley companies -- died on Oct. 11. He was 80.
Freidenrich was born and raised in Palo Alto, the middle son of Edith (Schermer) and David Freidenrich. He attended Walter Hays Elementary, Jordan Middle and Palo Alto High schools.
In a 2009 Palo Alto Weekly profile, Freidenrich recalled a childhood in which he rode his bicycle to the Fine Arts Theater on California Avenue to attend the 11-cent matinee.
"It would end with Hopalong Cassidy going over a cliff, and you'd have to come back the next day to see what happened," Freidenrich told the Weekly.
He received an undergraduate degree in economics from Stanford in 1959 and a law degree from the Stanford Law School in 1963 before joining his father in a law practice in Palo Alto.
There he met Leo Ware, who convinced Freidenrich in 1968 to become his partner to form the Ware and Freidenrich law firm.
"He thought that was a pretty good idea," Ware said this week. The partnership was based on a handshake, Ware said, and the two never felt they needed to write down their agreement.
"We ultimately reached the stage where we had several hundred lawyers," Ware said. The firm was eventually sold to what is now DLA Piper Global Law Firm, one of the world's largest law firms.
Freidenrich "was a spectacularly good partner," Ware said, with "never a harsh or angry word."
"He had an interest in lawyering small startup companies," Ware recalled, often investing in the companies he represented, "which persuaded him to leave the law" and form the venture capital firm Bay Partners in 1976.
Bay Partners was "a remarkable success," Ware said. Freidenrich led Bay Partners until retiring in 2004 but continued to serve as a director of Regis Management Company, which he co-founded in 2000.
"He just wasn't a good lawyer, he just wasn't a good guy -- he put his heart into improving the community, and he especially put his heart into improving Stanford," Ware said.
Freidenrich and his wife of 54 years, Jill, met at Stanford when they were both students and together supported their alma mater.
Freidenrich served as a member of the Stanford University Board of Trustees for 10 years and as its chair for four years in the mid-1990s. He was also a member of the board of the Stanford Hospital and Clinics and chaired the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital board.
He also served on the boards of American Century Funds and the Taube-Koret Campus for Jewish Life, among many others boards.
In 1999, Freidenrich and his wife donated the Freidenrich Family Gallery, a 5,300-square-foot gallery dedicated to contemporary art, at Stanford's Cantor Art Center. In 2006 the couple committed $25 million for the Jill and John Freidenrich Center for Translational Research, aimed at translating medical research into improved patient care.
"There wasn't anything you could do to help Stanford that John and Jill weren't involved in," Ware said. "He was a kind and generous person."
The Freidenriches have lived in Atherton since 1969.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by daughter Gail Marks and son Eric Freidenrich, their spouses Andrew and Amy; his brothers, David and Dennis Freidenrich; and six grandchildren.
A community celebration of his life will be announced by the family at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to: Stanford University for "The John Freidenrich Memorial Fund for Stanford Medicine"; Bay Area Cancer Connections in Palo Alto; or to the Jewish Community Federation in San Francisco.