Duane Roth: The Connector Who Wired Up a Regional Innovation Economy
The seating capacity of the University of San Diego’s Church of the Immaculata is approximately 900, and it is telling that the memorial service held late Friday morning for Connect CEO Duane Roth was standing room only.
The Spanish style church on the USD campus is one of the biggest in San Diego. Somber guests stood in small groups within the 20 side chapels along the central nave. People also spilled out of the doorways. They lined the walls of the cross-shaped church, which is 200 feet long and 148 feet wide across the transcept. Former U.S. Senator Pete Wilson was there. So was Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, Gateway founder Ted Waitt, UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, and hundreds of other CEOs, scientists, entrepreneurs, and business leaders who came to pay their respects.
Roth’s untimely death on Aug. 3 was the result of a head injury he incurred in a July 21 bicycling accident. He was 63. San Diego’s business and political leaders turned out in droves because Roth touched so many people here.
“He showed the way, but he also cleared the space beneath the boards,” basketball legend Bill Walton said in a moving tribute after the memorial, at a reception held by the Roth family at the exclusive Valencia Resort in Rancho Santa Fe. “When things got tough, Duane was always the one who stepped to the fore and said, ‘I’ll take care of this.’”
Roth served the regional innovation community in many capacities—as a biotech CEO and as a member of many nonprofit boards overseeing San Diego’s biotech industry, economic development and policy, healthcare policy, stem cell development, university research, and technology innovation. His varied interests seemed to come together, though, in his role as the CEO of Connect, the San Diego nonprofit group established to promote technology innovation and entrepreneurship. His innate sense of purpose flourished at Connect, which became his bully pulpit, and the eight and a half years he spent there could serve as a case study in how to go about developing a regional innovation economy.
Roth came to San Diego with the 1989 merger of Otisville Biopharm of Otisville, NY, and Fluoromed Pharmaceutical of San Diego. The combined company, renamed Alliance Pharmaceutical, set out to … Next Page »