A Tribute to Stephen Quinn, 1962-2009

7/8/09

[Editor's Note: this piece is adapted from a speech Chris Rathe gave at a memorial service last week for Stephen Quinn, a biotech entrepreneur who died suddenly on June 28.]

We are here today grieving the untimely passing of Stephen Quinn, but are also here to rejoice for the person that he was. Four years ago I first met Stephen furthering his quest to understand new technology and help support its development and commercialization. Today I project that the Seattle area, and over time, the world at large will long remember Stephen for his visionary leadership in moving proven science from the laboratories of Dr. Buddy Ratner and other key researchers in our community and recently across this country, presenting this work as commercial opportunities, and helping create five biotech companies in just the past few years.

I was also blessed to know Stephen as a good friend and to see his love and devotion as a husband to Katherine and as a father to his three daughters, Anastasia, Ava, and Mya, with a special love for his teenage daughter Anastasia, as she adjusted to her new sisters arriving into their growing family with Katherine.

We all have a lot to be thankful for in knowing Stephen. He encouraged us all to be better people. Here is some added perspective from a mutual friend, Scot Cocanour; “Stephen brought out the best in me, I suspect in all of us. The quizzical look, the slight tilt of his head, a few sharply pointed questions—they leveraged me to a whole new plane of insightfulness. His earnest, restlessness helped me to develop ideas and concepts that were resident in me but not yet liberated. I’m thankful for my time with him.”

Paraphrasing George Bernard Shaw: From my first hand experience I am of the opinion that Stephen’s life belonged to the extended community, and as long as he lived, it was his privilege to do for it whatever he could. Life was no brief candle for him. Life was a torch that he had gotten a hold of and wanted to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

It appears Stephen lived at least at double the speed of mere mortals. He enjoyed double the experiences, the ideas, the friendships, and play. As many of you came to know, his mind moved at double speed as well. Though Stephen may have been alive for only 46 years, he was a person that created added decades of experience into his colorful, and thoughtful life.

In closing I’d like to ask that we share a common vision of extending love and bettering human health on this planet, in honor of Stephen, in honor of those living and deceased, and especially in honor of those still to come. What we do for ourselves alone dies with us; what we do for others and the world remains and is immortal. A Chinese proverb summaries the growth opportunity for most of us, “If we exercise great caution nothing will happen”. I will continue to tell Stephen’s children, and his many extended friends and family, that Stephen not only stood for something wonderful, but he also acted on it.

Stephen will be truly missed by those that knew him.

With Love, Chris Rathe

Chris Rathe is co-founder, chairman, and CEO of PriTest, a Redmond, WA-based developer of a diagnostic test for tuberculosis. Follow @

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  • Janis Machala

    Chris, what a lovely tribute to someone who dived in with all his heart and soul. He took on an incubator concept when others didn’t think they could work. He championed technologies others didn’t see value in but he did. He started a swirl of biotech/biomed activity and relentlessly raised money for his beliefs. Thanks for such a warm tribute to an icon in our region.

  • Anonymous

    He had four kids.