John Arrillaga, one of Silicon Valley’s greatest philanthropists, dies at 84 | News
John Arrillaga, the billionaire philanthropist who helped build modern Silicon Valley before becoming one of its most prolific and generous donors, died Monday morning at the age of 84, his family announced.
The cause of his death was not immediately known.
Arrillaga was the founding partner of Peery Arrillaga, a commercial real estate giant that in the 1960s converted area farms and orchards into more than 20 million square feet of commercial space, according to the family of ‘Arrillaga.
In recent decades, the notorious recluse Arrillaga has also become one of the region’s most important donors. This included hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions to his alma mater, Stanford University, where many athletic and recreational facilities are named after him.
According to an obituary his family released on Monday, he had built and donated more than 200 projects and buildings, including the Frances Arrillaga Alumni Center, the Arrillaga Family Sports Center, the Arrillaga Center for Sports and Recreation Center and the Arrillaga Dining Hall. . In 2013, his $151 million gift to Stanford was described by the university as its “largest single gift ever made by a living individual”. He had led the effort to demolish and rebuild the university’s football stadium, a project he managed and funded.
When Arrillaga rebuilt the stadium, he “selected each palm tree, worked out the best shape for each structural element and created his own designs for the seats,” according to the obituary posted by his daughter, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen.
Arrillaga also funded the reconstruction of the Maples Pavilion, the university’s basketball complex. The family’s obituary notes that he walked around campus and personally picked up every trash he saw, as well as rearranged single stones in fountains across campus.
Arrillaga was also well known for opposing bureaucracy and for exercising firm control over his projects, which included the selection of design and contractors. Sometimes these qualities have helped him complete his projects faster than would otherwise be possible. His family noted that Stanford Stadium was built in just 42 weeks and under budget.
At other times, his reclusive and controlling approach created friction with local governments, such as when he tried to negotiate behind the scenes the construction of office towers and a theater near the train station in downtown Palo Alto – a project that exploded when it went public.
Likewise, his proposal to build a library in downtown Menlo Park fell through after he and city officials could not reach an agreement on the location of the new facility, with Arrillaga insisting on a location. downtown and the city promoting a Belle Haven library.
Arrillaga eventually withdrew the offer in 2018.
At the same time, Menlo Park was among the towns on the peninsula that benefited greatly from his largesse. He was the primary donor behind the construction of the Arrillaga Family Recreation Center, Arrillaga Family Gymnasium, and Arrillaga Family Gymnastics Center at Menlo Park Civic Center.
In a rare public appearance in 2010, in which he received the Golden Acorn Award from the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce, Arrillaga spoke about his love of sports and basketball – and his own use of the facilities at the city.
“Menlo was a great place in my heart because I played (basketball) at Burgess Gymnasium from 1960,” Arrillaga told an audience gathered at the Stanford Park Hotel. “I probably scored more points at this gym than any player in its history because I retired at almost 60,” he said.
His family’s obituary also credits him with donating dozens of buildings to Silicon Valley police departments, libraries and recreation centers. He also built and donated campus buildings for Menlo School and Castilleja School, where his children attended high school, according to the obituary.
He retained the philanthropic spirit until the very end. Just weeks before his death, Arrillaga offered to donate more than $30 million to Palo Alto to help the city build a new public gymnasium, with the understanding that he would choose the design and the contractor. The council was due to discuss the project on January 31.
Arrillaga grew up in a modest family. He was born in 1937 and grew up in Inglewood, California, with professional football goaltender Gabriel Arrillaga and Freda Arrillaga, a nurse. His father went on to become a laborer in the Los Angeles commodity market and his mother raised John and his four siblings, the late Gabriel Arrillaga, Alice Arrillaga Kalomas, William “Bill” Arrillaga and Mary Arrillaga Danna.
He took his first job at age nine, delivering newspapers, which was quickly complemented by his first job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. Her mother also picked up laundry from neighbors to make ends meet, according to the family’s obituary.
He graduated from Morningside High School, where he was student body president and star athlete, according to his family’s obituary.
Thanks to an anonymous donor, Arrillaga received a basketball scholarship to Stanford University. To pay for his books and living expenses, he held six jobs, ranging from washing dishes to delivering mail, working as a gardener and a cook, in addition to his studies and sports.
He graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in geography and was an All-American basketball player.
After graduating from Stanford, he traveled the world while playing basketball for the US National Basketball Team. He quit professional basketball after realizing it wouldn’t allow him the family life he wanted, his family noted in the obituary. After briefly selling insurance, he saved enough money to buy his first dilapidated commercial building and completed all the work himself before earning enough rent to buy his second building.
He had two children, John Arrillaga, Jr. and Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, with his first wife, Frances C. Arrillaga, a sixth-grade teacher, who also earned two master’s degrees from Stanford University. She died in 1995. He then married Gioia Fasi Arrillaga, a former lawyer and graduate of Santa Clara Law School.
His family noted in the obituary that for the past four decades, Arrillaga has devoted at least half his time to philanthropic endeavors, “still working seven days a week at the age of 84, literally negotiating leases until the day before his death”.
“He believed that successful philanthropy means combining financial resources with brains, skills and networks to amplify the number of lives he can touch and transform,” states the obituary. “He believed in always giving as much as you can, because the more you give, the more life gives back.”
Arrillaga died with his 22-year-old wife, Gioia, and two children, John Jr. and Laura, by his side. He is survived by Gioia Arrillaga; John Arrillaga Jr. and his wife, Justine, and their three sons; Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen and her husband, Marc Andreessen, and their son; the wife of his late brother Gabriel, Kay Arrillaga, and their three sons; brother William Arrillaga and his wife, Linda, and their two sons; sister Alice Arrillaga Kalomas and her husband, Anthony “Tony” Kalomas, and their four children; and her sister Mary Arrillaga Danna and her husband, Angelo Danna, and their son.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family requests that donations be made to the nonprofit organization that means the most to the donor in honor of John Arrillaga. For more information and to register for his celebration of life, write to [email protected]
This story will be updated.