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Gladstone Trustee Richard D. Jones: A Quiet Giant

Dick Jones, in his quiet way, devoted much of his life to founding Gladstone and supporting its efforts to become a cutting-edge biomedical research organization.

Richard “Dick” D. Jones was an instrumental figure in the creation and success of the Gladstone Institutes. The last of the original three founding trustees still serving, Jones will be greatly missed when he steps down on June 30, 2017.

“Despite his humble demeanor, his role is not to be underestimated,” says Andy Garb, Jones’s fellow trustee since 2004. “He’s been at the forefront of countless bold and courageous decisions, without which Gladstone wouldn’t exist today.”

Over the years, Jones demonstrated great skill in negotiating, constructing, and managing real estate properties, thus helping Gladstone grow from a scholarship-granting trust to a cutting-edge biomedical research institution.

“A man of impeccable integrity, Dick has led by showing a willingness to devote much of his life to Gladstone,” adds Garb, who was the trustees’ lawyer for over 20 years before becoming a trustee himself. “Through a difficult course, he always made decisions that would most benefit the institution; a testament to his fierce belief in the importance of our mission.”

Jones’s work in the early years significantly contributed to increasing the value of Gladstone’s investment portfolio. From the original bequest valued at $8 million in 1971, the endowment in 2016 stood at approximately $173 million, with total assets of $348 million.

Gladstone owes its financial health and remarkable research achievements to the founding trustees, who were willing to take risks and envision a better and stronger future for biomedical research. Thanks to the reliable revenue stream they put into place, the endowment has provided over $350 million for Gladstone research over the past 37 years.

Close to His Heart

Jones has spent most of his life close to Whittier, California, where he was born in 1933. After receiving a BA from Whittier College, he went to the University of Southern California to earn an LLB.

Until he retired nearly 10 years ago, Jones practiced law in Irvine and Los Angeles. For most of his career, he represented local real estate developers, both residential and commercial.

“Dick is one of my favorite people in the world,” says Robert W. Mahley, MD, PhD, Gladstone’s president emeritus and a senior investigator. “He’s always been a very private person, not sharing many personal details, but I do recall his interest in sailing.”

Well hidden from many who knew him professionally, Jones’s hobby was more than a mere interest. He was commodore of the Balboa Yacht Club in 1984, and was selected to oversee the pre-trial practices and regattas for the 1991 and 1992 Olympic pre-trials in the Finn and Europe classes.

“I wasn’t the greatest sailor that ever lived, but I guess you can say that sailing was my sport,” says Jones, modestly. “I mostly sailed small-class boats off the coast of Newport Beach. I participated in competitive sailing for many years, and even won some competitions.”

Jones and his wife, Phyllis, live in Newport Beach, surrounded by their family. “My wife said to my kids: ‘I don’t care where you live, as long as it’s within two blocks,” he says, laughing.

His family has grown well beyond his son, James, and daughter, Linda. He now has seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, all living nearby.

Dedicated from the Very Start

Jones was J. David Gladstone’s real estate lawyer for several years. In fact, he is the only remaining person at the institution who knew him personally.

“Dick’s seen it all, so he’s our institutional memory,” says Garb. “He is the most reliable repository of historical documents anyone could hope for.”

J. David Gladstone relied on his notable business instincts in selecting trustees to control his estate: Jones, Richard Brawerman, and David Orgell. He chose successful professionals who shared his passion and daring vision.

When he died unexpectedly in 1971, Gladstone was developing what would have been the capstone of his career—the landmark Northridge Fashion Center in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. He also owned part of the Valley Plaza Shopping Center in Bakersfield.

“David was one of my clients, and he had become one of the nation’s first developers of regional enclosed malls,” explains Jones. “I mostly just wanted to look after his assets and make sure he got what he wanted. My primary motivating factor early on was to make sure nobody cheated him.”

The day after Gladstone’s death, Jones and Brawerman sat down and mapped out a course of action.

“Those were trying times,” says Jones. “Richard asked if he thought we could finish the shopping center, and I said we could. I’d been involved in all of it, so I knew what had to be done. But it wasn’t easy. The first thing I needed to do was find David’s bank, because he had just changed it, and I didn't know where it was!”

Jones assumed the presidency of Gladstone’s real estate operations and various business ventures. In addition to managing Valley Plaza, he worked virtually full-time to complete the financing, construction, and leasing of the Northridge project, while also continuing his legal practice.

“After we formulated the trust, it took us a long time to decide what we wanted to do with the money,” says Jones. “The endowment was meant to support medical students interested in research, but we knew we could translate that idea into a broader vision and achieve far more than David had ever envisioned.”

When they realized that Gladstone’s estate had the potential to support a far larger philanthropic effort, the trustees obtained a change of purpose from the probate court that would allow the institution to operate as a medical research organization.

Their focus then became increasing the value of the estate. In 1981, the trustees sold both the Northridge and Valley Plaza shopping centers, and remarkably increased Gladstone’s $8-million estate to well over $85 million.

A tremendous asset to the trustees, Jones was always an astute investor, especially when it came to real estate.

“When I first started working with Dick, there were times when he chose to tour a portion of the investment property, so I thought he made decisions based on instinct,” recalls Vincent Moseley, Gladstone’s Chief Financial Officer. “But I quickly realized that he was more like an encyclopedia of the Orange County and Los Angeles area. I was always fascinated by how much he already knew about potential real estate investments: the area, the demographics, the foot traffic, and even the city’s plan for gentrification!”

The Power of Conviction

Once the trustees resolved to commit the Gladstone organization to basic science research, they needed to make a few important initial decisions. First, they had to identify the university medical center to which the institution would be affiliated. Second, they needed to recruit a research director. Jones had a tremendous impact on both pivotal decisions.

“Although they faced personal financial risks, the founding trustees made amazing decisions for the future of Gladstone, which took determination and boldness,” expresses Garb. “All three contributed to making these courageous decisions, but when it came time to actually implement them, it was all Dick. It’s a remarkable thing.”

The trustees set forth to find a home for Gladstone. They had several discussions with university officials in Southern California, who were unable to imagine an independent research organization affiliated with a medical school, a model that was nonexistent at the time.

After a few months of frustration, Jones was dispatched to San Francisco to explore the possibility of locating Gladstone on the campus of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

“I took our contract to the dean of the UCSF Medical School and asked if he would take the deal. Within 48 hours, we reached an agreement, and it got approved by the board of regents over the telephone.”

The search for a director of the new research institute then ensued. In 1978, they approached Mahley, who had started working at the NIH a few years earlier and was enjoying suburban Maryland living with his wife and son.

“I must say that I was surprised to be confronted by such a fantastic challenge at 37 years old, and I wasn’t at all sure what I should do,” recounts Mahley, who served as Gladstone president for more than 30 years before retiring in 2010. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something new. But, it was also a bit scary to consider moving to San Francisco.”

Mahley continues, “I met with the trustees and was inspired by their commitment. It’s what sold me on Gladstone; I wouldn’t have accepted without them. I’ll never forget when Dick told me: ‘We’ll do right by you, Bob’. And my decision was made.”

Another critical decision was largely influenced by Jones. As Gladstone evolved, the organization needed a new home to bring all its staff under one roof, rather than being spread across the UCSF campus at San Francisco General Hospital. Jones oversaw the real estate transactions and financing needed to construct the state-of-the-art laboratories at Mission Bay in San Francisco.

“Moving to the Mission Bay campus wouldn’t have happened without Dick championing the cause,” says R. Sanders “Sandy” Williams, MD, current Gladstone president.

Jones recalls the trustees’ decision to build at Mission Bay, “We are entering the 21st century with space, scientists, and equipment that will contribute to the benefit of mankind in a way that was not even contemplated 25 years ago, when we began.”

In 1996, in tribute to the institutes’ remarkable performance, UCSF awarded its highest honor, the UCSF Medal, to Gladstone Trustees Jones, Brawerman, and Albert A. Dorman (who succeeded Orgell after his death). This award recognizes extraordinary service by individuals from the community and their outstanding personal contributions in the health sciences.

A Quiet Man with Strong Impact

Jones is repeatedly described as a humble man of few words. But thanks to his sound judgement and reasoned opinions, his words carry great weight.

“Dick is mostly quiet in meetings, but his remarks are impactful,” describes Williams. “He speaks with clarity and directness. His simple and straightforward statements always seem to show the way to the right solution to complex problems.”

Bill Price, who joined Gladstone’s board of trustees in 2016, agrees with this assessment. “He is a great listener. Most people in meetings tend to express their opinions before hearing all the information, but Dick reserves judgment until he has all the facts. He lets the merits of an issue determine the outcome, and that’s a very powerful model to follow.”

Much like a good sailor who anticipates changing conditions and adjusts course, Jones has a remarkable capacity to continually change, improve, and adapt to new business challenges.

“It shows what an extraordinary person he is,” adds Price. “Dick learned not to grow overly comfortable with the status quo. He has an intellectual curiosity for challenging accepted norms and an interest in getting to the bottom of issues. It’s been a great pleasure to work with him and learn from his approach.”

“Dick makes decisions by balancing his savvy business skills with his love for science and people; I believe these two perspectives are not contradictory, but complementary,” says Williams. “I have drawn inspiration and guidance from Dick, who has provided me with a clear and consistent moral compass.”

Jones’s judicious advice and steadfast support have made a lasting impression on everyone who crossed his path at Gladstone.

“The early years were not always easy, as we were all learning what it meant to create a research institute,” says Mahley. “Dick had a way of putting his arm around my shoulder and encouraging me. Those small gestures made all the difference.”

According to Moseley, Jones is always willing to share his wisdom, especially when it’s sought. “Whenever I got stuck on an issue, I'd call him, and he would always be there to try to help,” he recalls. “He’s given me invaluable advice that I’ve used throughout my career at Gladstone.”

As Jones prepares to step down as a trustee, he is confident that Gladstone’s future is in excellent hands.  

“The institution is run by incredibly smart people, and they'll make provisions as time goes by, and adjust to what’s needed,” he says. “I’m convinced that all our efforts over the past years have created an institution, larger than any of us, that will thrive for many years to come.”

Jones looks back at the last 46 years with fond memories, particularly of the people he met along the way.

“The people who were employed by us worked hard, and they’ve been the key to making Gladstone the success it is today,” he says. “It’s a community effort. No one person is responsible for all of it.”

But Jones’s contribution is considered immeasurable by most.

“I doubt you can find a parallel example anywhere of a person who’s made such a lifelong commitment to any cause,” says Mahley. “We are all tremendously grateful for everything Dick has done for Gladstone.”


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