The UCSF community is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Gerson Bakar, a real estate developer whose philanthropic vision and leadership made an enduring impact on health care, Jewish community organizations, and education throughout the Bay Area. He is survived by his wife, Barbara Bass Bakar.
Bakar was a member of the UCSF Board of Overseers, and along with Barbara, supported many areas of UCSF, including cancer research, cardiovascular health, the neurosciences and scholarships.
Gerson was born and raised on his parents’ chicken ranch in Petaluma. He earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley’s business school in 1948 and launched a career in real estate as the founder and chairman of Gerson Bakar & Associates. His developments included Woodlake, a 1,000-unit, multifamily garden apartment housing complex in San Mateo that was considered a breakthrough in American housing and a model for future developments due to its extensive amenities. Perhaps most notably, he developed Levi Strauss & Co.’s headquarters in San Francisco, which has been called “a gift to the city.”
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, June 9, at Temple Sinai in Oakland. In lieu of flowers, tributes can be made to one of the following organizations:
Gerson channeled his talent for innovative real estate projects by acting as a catalyst that helped transform UCSF. As a member of the Bay Area Life Sciences Alliance, he partnered with civic leaders to secure the land, plan, and ultimately create the University’s Mission Bay campus. The Bakars were among the first to donate to Mission Bay, including for the Bakar Fitness and Recreation Center in the William J. Rutter Center, and more recently, a landmark gift that created the 70-bed Bakar Cancer Hospital, which opened in February 2015 as part of the new UCSF Medical Center. In honor of their inspiring service, UCSF awarded the Bakars the UCSF Medal in 1999.
“Gerson’s commitment to the University and to the community truly drove a new vision for the campus that helped revitalize the health of not only individuals but an entire city,” recalled UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS. “He also provided inspirational support and guidance, for which I will be forever grateful.”
“Gerson Bakar, along with Barbara, helped usher in a new era of health care and philanthropy in the Bay Area and beyond. I am profoundly grateful for Gerson’s foresight, compassion, generosity, and especially, his friendship,” said Mark Laret, CEO of UCSF Health. A patient at the Bakar Cancer hospital shared in this sentiment, saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you. We will always be in your debt for your kindness, compassion and assistance.”
"Gerson was a man of great honor, vision and generosity. His commitment to supporting cancer research and treatment means that many lives have been and will be changed far into the future,” said Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS, the center’s president and the E. Dixon Heise Distinguished Professor in Oncology. “We will honor the trust Gerson and Barbara have placed in the cancer center by continuing to pursue breakthroughs that extend and improve the lives of people with cancer. Gerson will be missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him."
The Bakars also supported gynecologic, urologic and breast cancer research at UCSF and fueled the groundbreaking work of our faculty members by founding two other distinguished professorships: the Gerson and Barbara Bass Bakar Distinguished Professorship in Cancer Research, held by Boris Bastian, MD, PhD, and the Barbara Bass Bakar Distinguished Professorship in Cancer Genetics, held by Allan Balmain, PhD.