In Memoriam: Calit2 Advisory Board Member Duane Roth

In May 2013, Duane Roth at a research open house in Atkinson Hall helps celebrate the naming of Calit2's UC San Diego division as the Qualcomm Institute.
San Diego, Aug. 6, 2013  -- Following two weeks in the UC San Diego Medical Center after a traumatic brain injury suffered in a bicycling accident, Calit2 Advisory Board member Duane Roth passed away on Saturday, August 3. The 63-year-old chief executive officer of CONNECT was a champion for innovation in the San Diego technology and life sciences industries.

In addition to his role at CONNECT, Duane held high-profile positions in two major life-science organizations: vice-chair of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM); and chairman-elect of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute board, where he was poised to take over as chairman in September.

However, we remember Duane fondly as a founding member of the external Advisory Board of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). Since its inception in December 2000, the board’s members, including Roth, helped guide the institute’s leadership.

“For more than 12 years, Duane Roth was a personal mentor and friend” said Calit2 Director Larry Smarr. “He created an essential role for fostering innovation, bridging basic research in the university and the transfer of novel ideas into the marketplace. His lifetime experiences gave him wisdom and judgment, which he kindly shared with the leadership of Calit2. His commitment to public service and to bringing the San Diego region together will be sorely missed. I am deeply saddened by his death.“

On May 31, Roth attended the 2013 Calit2 Advisory Board meeting at UC Irvine. He's shown here front-left, with (l-r in front row) Drew Senyei and Vint Cerf.
Leaders of Calit2’s two divisions – at UC San Diego and UC Irvine – also recalled the supportive role that Roth played throughout his long involvement with the institute:

  • Ramesh Rao, Director, Qualcomm Institute-the UC San Diego Division of Calit2: “Duane displayed a keen understanding of the underlying issues that usually comes after years of immersion in a field. He had a quick grasp of the big picture and, just as readily, suggestions for meaningful action. As an honest broker who worked tirelessly to further economic development, Duane remains a role model for San Diego's leaders. His untimely death while biking with a group from the Challenged Athletes Foundation underscores the depth and breadth of his involvement in the community. Duane was warm, quick and personable and a joy to work with.”
  • G.P. Li, Director, UC Irvine Division, Calit2: “Duane was a good friend, strong supporter and mentor of the Irvine division. He gave us actionable ideas that guided us through our efforts to successfully translate R&D into commercialization. He always provided positive, constructive feedback and encouraged out-of-the-box thinking that he knew would propel us forward and inspire innovation. He fostered collaboration among academic and business enterprises by connecting us at every level. We will miss him deeply. “

In 2008, Roth (second from left) with fellow members of the Calit2 Advisory Board tour the UCSD division. Others include Vint Cerf (far left) and right of Roth (l-r) Anne Petersen, Forest Baskett, and Andrew Viterbi, with Calit2 Chief of Staff Jerry Sheehan, and Calit2 Chief Scientist Ron Graham (far right). 
The Calit2 Advisory Board consists of distinguished members of academia, industry and public policy. Past and present members of Calit2’s Advisory Board recall the role that Duane played through the years in helping the institute support California’s industry, particularly in matters relating to strategic thinking, planning, and communications:

  • Anne Petersen, former Deputy Director, National Science Foundation, and co-chair, Calit2 Advisory Board: “Duane was an invaluable member of the Calit2 Advisory Board, reflecting and inextricably entwined with his role with San Diego business. Duane was a wonderful collaborator, and an endless source of useful, innovative ideas and knowledge. We will miss him tremendously!”
  • Drew Senyei, Managing Director, Enterprise Partners Venture Capital, and co-chair, Calit2 Advisory Board: “Duane was a tireless and passionate advocate for the local technology community. His vision and commitment helped foster San Diego’s emergence as one of the nation’s leading entrepreneurial communities. We will all greatly miss his wisdom and guidance in the many areas he touched, and especially at Calit2.
  • Philip M. Smith, former executive director, National Research Council, and founding co-chair of the Calit2 Advisory Board: “Duane brought great insight and wisdom to the board in three important ways. His own background in starting biotech companies was deep and helped the Institute think through innovation and entrepreneurship. His extensive contacts in the greater San Diego area business community helped the Institute immeasurably. Duane's many bi-partisan contacts in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. offered insight into ways to navigate the political turmoil in both arenas. He was a faithful member of the Board from 2000 to the present.”
  • Forest Baskett, New Enterprise Associates General Partner and founding co-chair of the Calit2 Advisory Board: "As a founding member of the advisory board, Duane brought great enthusiasm and insight into the startup company process, as well as useful and meaningful connections to the Southern California private sector that enabled Calit2 to expand its support for the California economy. He will be greatly missed."
  • Vint Cerf, VP and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google: “Duane Roth was a refreshing breeze that cleared the air and focused our thoughts. We will carry on in recognition of his leadership and commitment.”
  • Robert Conn, President, The Kavli Foundation: “The passing of Duane Roth leaves a large hole in San Diego's entrepreneurial enterprise, and in its spirit. When Bill Otterson, the founder of CONNECT, passed away in 1999, no one could imagine filling Bill's shoes. And no one did. Duane Roth took up the challenge in 2004 and really re-imagined CONNECT, with extraordinary results. His shoes, too, will not be filled. The region has lost both a visionary and a missionary for its health and economic well-being.”
  • Mark R. Anderson, CEO, Strategic News Service: “Duane had a remarkable ability to combine passion and task focus, with knowledge and reach into the worlds of business, politics and finance. He was a unique resource for everyone who worked with him, as he marshaled these skills behind the causes he believed in. He made a life of changing the world, one step at a time.”

In 2005, Duane Roth (with UCI professor Bill Tomlinson) plays a tablet-based interactive art experience during a tour organized for the Calit2 Advisory Board in UC Irvine's newly-opened Calit2 Building.
In addition to his long affiliation with Calit2, Duane worked tirelessly on behalf of other programs at UC San Diego. He served on the board of the Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, the UC San Diego Foundation, the campus Health Sciences Advisory Board, and the industry advisory board of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

“The San Diego community has lost an incredible leader, visionary and entrepreneur,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla in recognizing Duane’s contributions to the campus and the broader community. “Duane Roth was a tireless champion for San Diego growth, opportunity and prosperity. He had a unique ability to identify opportunities and spark collaborations that have and will continue to improve our world. Duane's innovation and expertise as an entrepreneur have made the San Diego region and the UC San Diego campus stronger.”

In 2008, Duane Roth at a Calit2 event.
A memorial service for Duane Roth will take place Friday, Aug. 9 at 11AM at University of San Diego Immaculata, 5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, CA 92110. In lieu of flowers, Roth's family has suggested donations to Pedal the Cause or the Otterson Legacy Fund.


CONNECT is a regional program that catalyzes the creation of innovative technology and life sciences products in San Diego County by linking inventors and entrepreneurs with the resources they need for success. Since 1985, when CONNECT was originally founded as a part of the University of California San Diego, it has assisted in the formation and development of more than 3,000 companies. The leadership of CONNECT attributes its success to the unique culture of collaboration between industry, capital sources, professional service providers and research organizations that CONNECT has sought to foster in the region. 

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