Deaths | April 27, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Community Pulse - April 27, 2012


George Rathmann

Palo Alto resident, George Rathmann, co-founder and first CEO of Amgen died in his home on April 22 after a long illness. He was 84.

Rathmann was born on Dec. 25, 1927, in Milwaukee, Wis. He received Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and chemistry from Northwestern University and a doctorate in physical chemistry from Princeton University. In 1951, he went to work as a scientist for 3M, where he helped develop 3M's Scotchgard product.

By the late 1970s, he had assumed numerous management roles and had become vice president of research and development for the diagnostics division at Abbott Laboratories in Chicago. During his eight years at Abbott, his products built the diagnostics division from almost nothing into $1 billion in revenue.

As a technical manager with a background in both biology and chemistry, he was a first choice for an entirely new field of science and industry: biotechnology. In 1980, he was recruited by venture capitalists as the first CEO and co-founder of Amgen. Over the next 10 years, he built Amgen from its four initial employees into a biotechnology company with thousands of employees and two multi-billion dollar products, Epogen and Neupogen.

In 1990, he retired from Amgen to form ICOS, a new biotechnology company in the Seattle area. While at ICOS, he raised the largest-ever-to-date private offering for a biotechnology company. The offering included an investment from Bill Gates, his first investment in biotechnology.

One aspect of his management style was his egalitarian approach, according to those who knew him. At Amgen picnics (initially held at the home of Rathmann and his wife, Joy), it was not uncommon for the kids of the lowest paid laboratory technicians to call him "George" or "Grandpa George."

As a recognized industry expert, his public service commitments grew along with his business commitments. He served as an officer and board member of the Biotechnology Industry Organization and was its chairman from 1986 to 1988. In 1993, he was approached by the late former Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown to find a way to highlight the achievements of the country's highest award recipients — the laureates receiving the Presidential Medal of Science and the Presidential Medal of Technology (the U.S. equivalent of the Nobel Prize). To accomplish this, he started the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation, which continues to this day.

He is survived by his wife of almost 62 years, Joy Rathmann; five children, James (Anne Noonan), Margaret (John Wick), Laura Jean, Sally Kadifa (Abdo George), and Richard (Mary Anne); and 13 grandchildren.

In commemoration and celebration of his life, there will be a memorial service held at the First Congregational Church, 1985 Louis Road, Palo Alto, at 10:30 a.m. Friday, May 4. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that those interested in honoring him make a donation to their favorite charity in his memory.

Norvin Powell

Norvin Powell, a lifelong resident of the Bay Area, died April 8 after over a year of declining health.

He was born July 22, 1952, in San Francisco. He served in the U.S. Army, and then studied engineering at San Jose State University and later bodywork at Body Therapy Center in Palo Alto and the Hendrickson Institute in Kensington.

He then attended International School of Professional Bodywork in San Diego, where he studied structural integration with one of the school's founders, Ed Maupin.

After retiring from a career as an engineer for ATT he began work as a massage therapist at Body Therapy Center in 1998, and also in the following years became a favorite instructor at the BTC School.

He worked at Custom Fitness in Mountain View for eight years and offered bodywork privately through his own business Within Reach Massage for many years. He was greatly respected and loved by the bodywork community as both a teacher and a practitioner. He was a seasoned listener as well as practitioner.

In his words, "listening" is an activity performed with sensitive, sensitized, and charged hands, in addition to heart, spirit, mind, and intellect. He brought this process to a new level.

He enjoyed jazz and improving his golf swing. He built his life around his daughter Serena, and in his last years enjoyed a blossoming relationship with Becky Wecks.

Norvin is survived by his daughter Serena Powell, his partner Becky Wecks, Serena's mother Kristin Powell, his father Ethan Powell and his sister Debra Powell.


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