‘The best of California’: UC Regent Richard Blum dies at 86

Photo of Richard Blum speaking at a podium
Jarrettf2009/Creative Commons
Richard Blum, former UC regent and founder of the American Himalayan Foundation, will be remembered as a champion of the UC system, philanthropist and man devoted to his family. Photo by Jarrettf2009 under CC-BY-SA-3.0-US

Richard Blum, former UC regent and husband of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, died Sunday after a long battle with cancer.

Blum was first appointed to the UC Board of Regents by former California Gov. Gray Davis in 2002. He was reappointed by former California Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014, and also served as a chair emeritus, according to a UC press release.

“Richard exemplified the best of California,” Davis said in an email. “A product of California’s renowned UC Berkeley and Haas School of Business, Richard became an entrepreneur and used his many talents to inspire and uplift others.”

In addition to his nearly two decades spent serving on the UC Board of Regents, Blum, a campus alumnus, founded the Blum Center for Developing Economies, a group that focuses on tackling issues surrounding global poverty.

Rich Lyons, former dean of the Haas School of Business and Blum’s colleague at the Blum Center, spoke about the durability of Blum’s contributions to the UC system, saying that his contributions will far outlive him.

“It is hard to think of anybody who was more deeply and completely dedicated to the UC system,” Lyons said.

Lyons said that Blum was a systems thinker who saw the importance of the work coming out of the UC system and had the ability to “enlarge people’s perceptions on how important the UC system was.”

The Blum Center for Developing Economies now has locations on all nine of the undergraduate UC campuses.

Lyons pointed to the importance of a world-class public education such as the one offered by the UC system and said that Blum personified it, lived it and advanced it.

“These institutions are some of society’s most important assets, and nobody lived their life more consistently with that understanding,” said Lyons. “The institutionalization and durability he built into the system will outlive any one of us.”

Outside of his contributions to the UC system, Blum is remembered as a philanthropist.

Blum, a “compassionate humanitarian,” worked on initiatives to end human trafficking in Nepal, according to a press release issued by U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla.

In 1981, Blum founded the American Himalayan Foundation, which seeks to bring education, health care and other basic needs to the Himalayan region, according to the foundation’s website.

“His contributions helped develop solutions to the grand challenge of global poverty,” Davis said in the email.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom also honored Blum in a press release, noting he was a “model Californian” who left the world better than he found it — uplifting communities and helping connect people across the world.

But beyond Blum’s vast accomplishments, he will be remembered as a partner, friend and man devoted to his family.

“We have a hole in our hearts that will never be filled,” Feinstein said in a press release. “Dick, we love you, we’ll miss you and we’ll continue to celebrate everything you accomplished during an amazing life.”

Contact Anna Armstrong at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @annavarmstrongg.