George B. James II, 80, a leader in many of San Francisco’s business, cultural and civic institutions, died in his sleep early Monday morning the 24th of July.
Born in Haverhill, Massachusetts in 1937, George attended Perley High School in Georgetown, Massachusetts. He was a star on the high school basketball team and led them to an appearance in the state championship in 1955. He then attended Harvard University, where he played on the varsity basketball team for three years.
In 1959 he moved to California to attend Stanford Business School, graduating in 1962. Returning to the East Coast, George took positions in the financial departments of several corporations, rising to treasurer of a division of Pepsico.
He moved his family to Palo Alto, California in 1972 to take a position as treasurer at Arcata National Corporation in Menlo Park, and in 1975 was named Chief Financial Officer. Later as CFO of Crown Zellerbach he took up residence in San Francisco. In 1985, he served as CFO of Levi Strauss and Company, until his retirement in 1998.
He joined the board of the San Francisco Ballet in 1976 during a period of budgetary crisis for the ballet. He recruited many new donors to the ballet and was involved in the selection of a new artistic director, which laid the foundation for decades of future success. He was named Chairman of the Board of Directors, a position that he maintained for fifteen years, retiring in 1991.
A believer in the importance of expanding educational opportunity, George James endowed a scholarship at Harvard University specifically for students from small towns and underrepresented areas. He also served as Chairman of the Board at Cate School in Carpinteria, California for many years working to substantively increase the endowment and expand the scholarship program.
George James also served on the Board of Directors of the Stanford University Hospital and the California Pacific Medical Center where he founded with his wife The George and Beverly Thoracic Oncology Center.
He had a lifelong love of current affairs, serving as Chairman of the World Affairs Council for five years, and as an overseer of the Hoover Institution. He also served on the Committee for Economic Development, the San Francisco Film Commission, and as a trustee of Grace Cathedral.
George was known for his warm and open personality by all who knew him. He is leaving behind a great many friends, colleagues, business associates, and family members. He is survived by four sons and ten grandchildren. He will be greatly missed.
A Funeral Service will be held on Thursday, August 3rd, 3pm at Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street, San Francisco, CA and an Interment Service will be held on Friday, August 4th, 2:30pm at Santa Barbara Cemetery, 901 Channel Drive, Santa Barbara, CA.