Years After Passing, Duane Roth’s Legacy Lives on Through Family and Philanthropy

Duane Roth reclining in an arm chair
Duane Roth photo courtesy of the San Diego Union-Tribune

In 2013, renowned technology leader and philanthropist Duane Roth had his life cut tragically short in a cycling accident that left the entire San Diego region heartbroken.

For decades, Duane was seen as the visionary leader in San Diego who helped grow the innovation economy, all the while building up everyone he came into contact with.

Most known for his success as CEO of Connect and Vice Chair of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, Duane made a name for himself as a champion for San Diego’s innovation industry. Under his leadership at Connect, during a time when the local science industry was at a tipping point, Duane helped scientists make the connections they needed to start groundbreaking companies and achieve new breakthroughs. And while his career achievements were numerous, they made up only a fraction of his impact in the region.

“After Duane passed away, our family was deeply moved by the reaction from the San Diego community,” recalled Ted Roth, Duane’s brother and best friend. “Countless people, many of whom we had never met, came up to us to share stories about how our brother impacted their lives.”

San Diegans from all industries described Duane as one of the region’s great leaders whose contributions expanded well beyond the life sciences industry. He was a visionary leader who sparked growth, opportunity and prosperity for the economy, as well as a caring man who connected with everyone he met on a deeper level.

Co-founder of Qualcomm Irwin M. Jacobs shared that losing Duane meant the “loss of a friend that I enjoyed meeting with and talking to and exploring possibilities.” Former colleague of Duane’s at Alliance Pharmaceuticals, Pete Manspeaker said his “personal touch and dedication to those who worked with him became evident to me on my first day on the job when he personally came down to my office to welcome me to the company.”

Those kind words of leaders from just about every sector in the region were a reason why Duane’s family and close friends decided to establish the Duane Roth Legacy Fund at The San Diego Foundation after he passed away. They wanted a way to carry on the important work of a man who did so much good for the San Diego region.

“While sad to have lost Duane, we were proud of the fact that we were able to do some good in the community under his name,” shared Ted.

The fund represented a lifetime of giving, by Duane and his family.

Growing up as Mennonites in a small farming community in Iowa, Duane and his brothers were always taught by their parents to help others. While their family didn’t have much in the way of financial wealth, they were always there to lend a hand when needed.

Ted still remembers the time when his parents drove across the state to help fellow Iowans after tornadoes ripped through their towns.

When the Roth children grew older and found success in their respective careers, that attitude of helping others remained a core tenet of their life’s purpose.

Duane and the other Roth brothers would spend their free time giving back to the areas they cared about most. In fact, Ted recalled how he and Duane would coordinate their time so they could help as many causes as possible. They served on boards and volunteered for numerous organizations, such as the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, UC San Diego, Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, and the list goes on.   

Duane’s wife, Renee, and his brothers Ted, Gordon, and Byron have committed to continue their charitable impact through the Duane Roth Legacy Fund and their individual philanthropy. They also hope to see some of the fund’s future giving directed by their children to engage the next generation and carry on the family tradition of helping others.

While the San Diego region misses Duane and his personal approach to business and community, his legacy lives on through the lives of the countless people he touched and his far-reaching philanthropic impact.

Learn about the impact of other legacy funds at The San Diego Foundation