F. Warren Hellman, philanthropist and friend of UC Berkeley, passes away

UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau issued the following statement on the passing of his dear and trusted friend:

Berkeley – The University of California, Berkeley, mourns the loss of F. Warren Hellman, a visionary leader and philanthropist and alumnus of the Class of 1955. Warren passed away in San Francisco on Sunday, Dec. 18, at the age of 77.

F. Warren Hellman

Warren lived life with tremendous passion and remarkable compassion. His contributions helped people, ideas and causes at UC Berkeley, in the Bay Area, California and the world. He was an invaluable adviser to me and served on the Chancellor’s Executive Advisory Council; he was also a very good friend to both Mary Catherine and me. The Cal family for generations to come is indebted to him for his support of Berkeley and public higher education.

As I reflect on his life, it is especially moving to recall the broad sweep of his impact in so many areas of society, from the arts to athletics, business to science, students to faculty. We are all the better for his leadership and contributions that improve people’s lives.

He was once asked why he was so philanthropic, and he replied, “Why not?” In typical fashion, he told the California Monthly (now California magazine) in 2003, “I don’t mean to sound preachy, but I don’t think it’s optional to give back to society. You should want to be involved. And sometimes it’s even fun.”

Warren lived that statement out to the end.

He served the campus on numerous boards, including service as a Trustee of the UC Berkeley Foundation and the Haas School of Business. He co-chaired the landmark Campaign for the New Century that raised $1.44 billion between 1993 and 2000 for programs to benefit faculty and students.

In 1995, he and his wife, Chris, established the Hellman Family Faculty Fund at UC Berkeley to support the work of exceptional assistant professors who show great promise in their research.

His love of Cal athletics knew no bounds, and his fervor could be traced to his days as a member of the water polo team. He supported the Golden Bears through his adult life and was an advocate for aquatic sports and student athletes.

In 2010, Warren was one of three key donors whose gifts made possible the transfer of the 10,000-piece Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life to The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. The new home of the Magnes will open to the public next month at 2121 Allston Way – yet another testimonial to the lasting impact of Warren’s vision and philanthropy.

In recognition of his lifetime achievements and commitment to his alma mater, the Cal Alumni Association named him Alumnus of the Year in 2003.

Warren was part of an extended family that has been tied to Cal for generations. His father was Marco F. Hellman, Class of 1927, who ran a successful brokerage firm. His great-grandfather, I. W. Hellman, was a banker, philanthropist and a leading pioneer of California business. His daughter, Frances, is a professor and chair of the Department of Physics at UC Berkeley.

He and his wife, Chris, passed on to their children their zeal for giving back to the community, and numerous organizations are the better for it. This includes the San Francisco Free Clinic, which was started by one of their daughters, Patricia Hellman Gibbs, and her husband, Richard.

Warren is survived by his wife, his son Marco, his daughters, Frances and Judith Hellman and Patricia Hellman Gibbs, and his sister, Nancy P. Bechtle.

There will be a moment of silence in honor of Warren tonight, Dec. 19, during the Cal vs. UC Santa Barbara basketball game.