By any measure; a fine man, a great loss. Remembering Duane Roth

What is the true measure of a man? That’s a question that has been on the minds of many of us these last few days as we struggle to come to terms with the sudden and untimely death of our friend and colleague Duane Roth.

Duane died last weekend of injuries he suffered in a bicycle accident on July 21. He was riding with a group from the Challenged Athletes Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting people with physical disabilities, providing them the help and support they need to lead an active lifestyle. It was typical of Duane to be doing something to help others. He appreciated his own good fortune and tried to use it to give back to those less fortunate.

A memorial service is being held for Duane today at the Church of the Immaculata on the University of San Diego campus. There’s more information about the memorial on the CONNECT website.

On our online memorial, CIRM leaders and members of the public wrote their memories of Duane. CIRM’s President Alan Trounson remembers Duane’s “engaging smile, the crinkle and twinkle in his eyes, his dapper appearance and his willingness to stop and help.”

“He was my friend,” Alan says. “He gave so much – to his wife Renee and other close family, his work mates at Connect, to the growing national life science industry, to advocates for disease and injury, to his work for charity.“

“He was always committed to doing the right thing, even when it wasn’t the easy thing, or the politically expedient thing, or the popular thing,” says Claire Pomeroy, who served with Duane on the stem cell agency’s governing Board, the ICOC.

“After CIRM meetings we often got together to debrief at the bar. I remember him acknowledging that he was often the only Republican at the table – outnumbered by emphatic democrats. Yet, our discussions found great areas of agreement as well as some areas of respectful differences. He never minded being in the minority because his core values and beliefs were constant, well articulated, and compassionate. And Duane liked a good time. He often treated the whole group to wine- always accompanied by a smile and delight with the opportunity to be together.” 

For CIRM Board Chair, Jonathan Thomas, Duane was: “Thoughtful, caring, humble and brilliant- a true leader- we won’t be the same without him.”

“Duane and I talked on a regular basis about a whole range of issues affecting CIRM, often on short notice and at odd hours. We’d always laugh because he invariably was coming from a meeting of one business or charitable organization or another that he either ran or for whom he was a key player. I could never figure out how somebody could do such a great job on so many fronts at once or how he ever had enough hours in the day to get it all done.” 

Pompey, in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, says “Good counsellors lack no clients.” Duane, by all accounts was a wise and good counselor.

Art Torres, his co-Vice Chair at the agency, says “Duane was a no-nonsense person. He had the experience of a lifetime in the health care field and it was that background which made him so invaluable to CIRM and as an advisor and friend to me.”

Art says he and Duane shared a love of politics and recalls one interview in the La Jolla Light newspaper where Duane was asked who he would invite to a dinner party for 8. “JFK, Reagan, Thatcher, Churchill, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, my wife Renee to sit next to JFK, and my brother Ted Roth who is a Democrat.”

Jeff Sheehy, a former colleague of Duane’s on the Board, says he came to “deeply respect Duane as a friend, colleague, teacher and mentor.”

“What I loved about Duane, besides his unflappable good humor, was his patient and carefully considered exposition of his viewpoints. I learned so much from Duane, not just his views about the issues we debated, but also how to respectfully meld diverse viewpoints to find common ground and tons about the art of management. I can’t measure how much good sense and good judgment rubbed off on me, just from listening to and learning from Duane. California has suffered a terrible loss.” 

For another former Board colleague, Leeza Gibbons, the shock of his loss is still only just hitting home.

 “I just keep seeing that smile, that ‘just-walked-off-the-pages-of-a- fashion-magazine’ look, and those intelligent eyes that always saw the best in everything and everyone (even when we, ourselves, couldn’t). Duane was one of those who reached out to people and met them where they were…seeing what was important to them and always interested in helping. I had barely begun my term at CIRM when Duane showed up like a big brother to inspire me and guide me.” 

Bishop Robert South once wrote: “If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives.” By any measure Duane gave generously.

“He put his heart and soul into his life and his friendship with all of us,” Alan says. “It’s difficult to think of anyone who contributed more of himself for others. We miss him terribly.”

“That was Duane,” says Jonathan. “So much giving on so many fronts doing so much good for so many people. It is very rare to find people like him. We were extraordinarily lucky to have him for seven years and will carry on in his memory going forward.”

The family has suggested that anyone wishing to honor Duane’s memory can make a donation to the Otterson Legacy Fund the Challenged Athletes Foundation, or the Copley-Price Family YMCA.

Please feel free to leave your own memories of Duane on our online memorial.

Kevin McCormack

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