‘He led with brilliance’: UC Berkeley alumnus Alan Mendelson dies at age 73

photo of Alan Mendelson
Michael Blash/Courtesy

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Alan Mendelson, a UC Berkeley alumnus, member of the campus College of Chemistry Advisory Board and prominent figure in the life sciences industry, died Oct. 8 at the age of 73.

Mendelson dedicated much of his life to giving back to his alma mater, UC Berkeley. After graduating with a political science degree in 1969, he went on to work as a lawyer in the chemical and life sciences field, while also finding several ways to remain an active member of the campus community, according to a Cal Alumni Association LinkedIn post.

He served as the president of the Cal Alumni Association and a member of the Board of Trustees of the UC Berkeley Foundation, among other UC system positions, according to Michael Marletta, a campus professor of chemistry and friend of Mendelson.

“There’s an incredible list, almost unbelievable list, of things Alan has done for Berkeley over his lifetime,” Marletta said.

Mendelson was a product of San Francisco and the Bay Area and took pride in the local sports and public education, according to Wendye Robbins, president and CEO of Blade Therapeutics, where Mendelson worked as a general counsel and secretary.

He loved to tell stories about attending UC Berkeley football and basketball games as well as San Francisco Giants games as a kid, Robbins said in an email. 

Mendelson’s love for both sports and campus manifested into a $300,000 donation to the Cameron Institute, which works to prepare campus student athletes for post-graduate life, according to a Cal Athletics article.

This culture of generosity and philanthropy was important to Mendelson, according to Marletta. He also contributed to the construction of Stanley Hall on campus and founded the Mendelson Fellowship to support graduate students in the campus department of chemistry, Marletta added.

Mendelson dedicated his life’s work to helping others and encouraged those around him to do the same, according to Robbins.

“He expected me and his other mentees to be politically aware, engaged in democracy, and highly philanthropic,” Robbins said in an email.

In addition to working at Blade Therapeutics, Mendelson was a founding partner of the Bay Area practice of Latham and Watkins where he served as chair of the healthcare and life sciences practice for a decade, according to the Latham and Watkins website. 

Paul Kelly, a board member of Blade Therapeutics, said in a LinkedIn post that Mendelson was known for his “humanity, humility and humour.” Kelly noted that Mendelson always expressed genuine care for the well-being of the company and its staff.

Robbins, who said she viewed Mendelson as her “trusted advisor,” expressed similar sentiments.

“He led with brilliance, patience, and instinct,” Robbins said. “He loved many people. His wife, Agnes, his sons, Jonathan and David, and his grandkids meant everything to him. He cared deeply about his teams and his friends.”

Contact Dima Aboukasm at [email protected] / @DimaAboukasm