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Many of us would not be riding the trails we ride today if not for "Bob"...

Former Stanford VP, founder of open space non-profit, dies at 83
By Diana Samuels

Daily News Staff Writer

Updated: 01/06/2010 07:02:17 AM PST

Robert "Bob" Augsburger, a former Stanford University vice president and a founder of the Peninsula Open Space Trust, died Dec. 31 at his Portola Valley home of a brain tumor, his family said. He was 83.

Augsburger's wide-ranging career took him from an investment firm to Stanford to conservation and open-space groups. With the business and legal acumen he developed early on, Augsburger brought "strategic thinking and sound financial practices" to nonprofits, said his daughter, Jane McLaughlin.

Augsburger was born in 1926 and grew up in Canton, Ohio. He graduated from Purdue University and Case Western Reserve University Law School, and went to work at the Glidden Co. in Cleveland, where he held positions including director of financial relations.

In 1963, he left to serve as vice president for the investment firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette in New York. He helped take that company public in 1970, making it the first publicly traded investment firm in the United States.

Augsburger then took a year off, and while serving as a deacon at a Presbyterian church in New Jersey considered becoming a minister or opening a bar and practicing lay ministry, McLaughlin said.

He instead came to Stanford in 1971 to serve as vice president of business and finance. There, he helped oversee the renovation of the Stanford Shopping Center and handled his share of controversies, working among dissenting students, conservative stakeholders and faculty who didn't subscribe to his private-sector approach, McLaughlin said.

He often said his only accomplishment at Stanford that nobody objected to was installing a traffic light at Junipero Serra Boulevard and Alpine Road, McLaughlin added.

In 1977, he started POST - an organization that uses private donations and matching public funds to purchase and preserve open space - with co-founder Ward Paine. McLaughlin said her father always believed in an efficient, logical use of land - for example, increasing density in town to leave space open elsewhere.

"It really came from logic," McLaughlin said. "He was never a hiker ... I just think he felt it was beautiful to have this backdrop of open space, and it just made good sense."

He served as POST's first executive director from 1971 to 1981. Current POST President Audrey Rust remembered Augsburger as a "charming man and fun to be around.

"He came to the role with a sound business background and a credibility that really allowed us to establish ourselves right away," she said.

He left to work as a lecturer at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, until retiring in 1994, but always remained involved and interested in POST, Rust said.

McLaughlin described her father as a "funny man" and said he loved to travel. He and his wife Jean Ann toured Europe's opera houses, traveled to Turkey and the Middle East, and went on a cruise up the west coast of Africa, among other trips.

"He just wanted to go everywhere and learn as much as he could," McLaughlin said.

Augsburger is survived by his wife of 59 years, Jean Ann; sons David and John; daughter Jane McLaughlin; and four grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled to take place Jan. 29 at 4 p.m. at Valley Presbyterian Church, 945 Portola Road, Portola Valley. In lieu of flowers, Augsburger's family suggests a donation in his memory to POST, Hidden Villa or the Children's Health Council.
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