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Engineer, philanthropist Jack Baskin dies at age 100

Jack Baskin
Jack Baskin
Tuesday, January 14, 2020
stephens@ucsc.edu (Tim Stephens)

Jack Baskin, an entrepreneur and major philanthropic supporter of UC Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz community, died at his home in Carmel on January 12. He was 100.

Baskin was an active supporter of engineering and other programs at UC Santa Cruz over several decades, providing advice to faculty and campus leaders as well as generous financial support. His cornerstone gift helped launch UCSC's Baskin School of Engineering in 1997. Baskin and his family have also supported many other programs at UCSC, including the Elena Baskin Visual Arts Center, the Institute of Marine Sciences, arts programs, endowed chairs, and scholarships. The donations from Baskin and his foundation have amounted to more than $10 million.

"Jack Baskin's impact at UC Santa Cruz can be seen across the campus, from engineering to the arts and humanities," said UCSC Chancellor Cynthia Larive. "His philanthropy has been strategic, multifaceted, and transformational to our campus, and his support included extensive contributions of his time and energy."

Baskin's involvement with UC Santa Cruz began in the 1970s, when founding chancellor Dean McHenry invited him to serve on the campus's physical planning committee. He was a trustee of the UCSC Foundation for over 30 years, including two years as chair.

"From the very early years of UC Santa Cruz, Jack Baskin campaigned for a strong engineering presence on campus," said Alexander Wolf, dean of the Baskin School of Engineering. "He wanted UCSC to be a leader in engineering, a vision that has been realized, in part through his generosity, with world-class research and education."

Baskin also gave generously to assist families, children, and senior citizens in the Santa Cruz region through the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, which he helped establish, and other organizations. Beneficiaries of his time and donations include Dominican Hospital, Cabrillo College, and Monterey Peninsula College. Baskin was named "Man of the Year" by the Santa Cruz County Chamber of Commerce in 1986. In 2008, he and his wife Peggy Downes Baskin established the Peggy and Jack Baskin Foundation to provide financial support for gender equality and increased access to education for marginalized communities in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties.

Born in upstate New York, Baskin was the first in his family to attend college. His parents, who spoke no English when they immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1908, insisted that he study engineering. Baskin studied mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado and earned a B.S. in aeronautical engineering from New York University in 1940. He was a pilot and served as an aeronautics instructor during World War II.

Baskin moved to Southern California in the late 1940s, where he worked as a general contractor and built a very successful development company. His company worked on commercial, industrial, and public construction projects throughout California. After moving to Palo Alto in 1967, he saw a need for quality affordable housing in the region. His company built the first low-income housing center in San Francisco and thousands of apartments for low-income families and the elderly in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas.

In 2006, Baskin was inducted into the Silicon Valley Engineering Hall of Fame in recognition of his role in establishing the Baskin School of Engineering. He received the inaugural Fiat Lux Award from UC Santa Cruz in 2005 in honor of his service to the campus. UC Santa Cruz celebrated Baskin's 100th birthday with an event at the engineering school on September 19 featuring family members, as well as faculty and alumni who spoke about Baskin's influence on their lives and careers.

Baskin's first marriage, to Virginia Ruth Goldman, ended in divorce. His second wife, Elena, died in 1995. He is survived by his wife Peggy Downes Baskin, daughters Marianna Baskin Gabriel Mejia and Elaine Baskin, stepsons Nicholas Baran and Scott Dewar, stepdaughter Cammy Torgenrud, and their spouses and children, as well as an extended family of loved ones.

A memorial service is planned for Saturday, February 22, at 3 p.m. at the Samper Recital Hall at Cabrillo College, with a reception at Sesnon House to follow.