Bob Sayles, campus alumnus, leader of Bowles Hall restoration, dies at 85

Bob Sayles, a UC Berkeley alumnus who helped lead the restoration of the campus’s Bowles Hall, died May 14 after a brief illness, according to a campus press release. Sayles was 85.

Sayles, who lived in Bowles Hall during all four years he was a campus student, helped lead the Bowles Hall restoration, a $45 million project spearheaded by Bowles alumni which took 12 years to achieve from planning to final completion in August 2016.

“He considered his experience at Bowles very significant,” said his wife Judy Sayles, who added that the couple would have celebrated their 65th anniversary next month. “Without him, (the restoration) wouldn’t have happened.”

After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1952, Sayles held a few different careers. Sayles served in the Marine Corps, eventually reaching the rank of captain, according to his wife.

Sayles then went on to work for 22 years at IBM, although according to Sayles’s grandaughter, Shawna Carpenter, when Sayles was a campus student, the campus’s career office had advised Sayles that he would never be suited to work at IBM.

Sayles also advised early-stage startups as a partner at a venture capital firm, offering consultation to telecommunications industry executives on strategic and long-range planning.

Later in his life, Sayles continued to give back to Bowles Hall, serving as president of the Bowles Hall Foundation for several years before stepping down. According to Scott Wilson, a member of the Bowles Hall Foundation Board of Directors, Sayles was the “inspiration and energy behind the Bowles Hall Foundation.”

For the recent Bowles Hall restoration, Sayles gathered support for the project, spearheaded the fundraising for renovations and assembled a management team to see the project through.

“Many at the university were skeptical that we could pull this off, but with the team he assembled … we were successful,” said John Baker, the current president of the Bowles Hall Foundation, in an email. “We are very proud of what we have accomplished and Bob deserves all the credit for having the vision and leadership to make it happen.”

According to Nathan Mayer, former president of the Bowles Hall Student Association, Sayles was a mentor in both Mayer’s personal and professional development.

Mayer said in an email that Sayles’ contributions brought multiple generations of Bowles Hall alumni together to establish a student-centered community that “will be the defining foundation for generations to come.”

“Bob truly went above and beyond for everything he did. Bob was not only a leader, but a teacher to those around him,” Mayer said in an email. “He served as a role model to those around him and taught us all about integrity and having the tenacity to work towards a goal bigger than ourselves.”

A memorial service for Sayles will be held May 26 in Folsom, California, and in lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Bowles Hall Foundation, according to the press release.

Sayles is survived by his wife, five children, 10 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren, according to the press release.


Contact Jamari Snipes at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @JamariSnipes.