Alan C. Mendelson
1948 – 2021
Alan C. Mendelson, a resident of Atherton, California, passed away on October 8, 2021 at the age of 73. The consummate lawyer, director, and advisor to hundreds of emerging and public growth companies, primarily in the life sciences industry, Alan also devoted much of his time serving as a boardmember and supporter of the University of California Berkeley, the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, and the National Kidney Foundation.
Born in 1948 in San Francisco, Alan was the eldest son of Samuel Mendelson, Rita Spindel Brown, and stepfather Elmer Brown. He grew up in the Sunset district of San Francisco, attending public schools, including Lowell High School. Like his father, four of his cousins, his brother Larry (who predeceased Alan), and sister Debra, Alan attended the University of California Berkeley, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with “great distinction” in December 1969. After active duty service as a reservist in the U.S. Army, Alan graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in May 1973.
Sensing a shift of economic activity toward Silicon Valley, Alan was among the Cooley partners who pushed to open a Palo Alto office in 1981. Alan spent more than 26 years with Cooley, building the leading life sciences law firm in the Bay Area. In May 2000, he joined the Silicon Valley office of Latham & Watkins LLP, a major global law firm. During the next 20 years, Alan helped make Latham a major national player in the life sciences space. Alan also served as the corporate secretary for many public and private companies, and throughout his career he served on the board of directors of several biotechnology and medical device companies. From 1990 to 1991, he served as secretary and acting general counsel of Amgen, commuting each week to Thousand Oaks, which he always described as the most exciting, yet stressful, year of his professional life. Alan joined the San Francisco law firm of Cooley, Godward, Castro, Huddleson & Tatum (now Cooley LLP), where he was fortunate to be mentored by several distinguished lawyers, including Edwin E. Huddleson, Jr., C. Bradford Jefferies, James C. Gaither, and Lee F. Benton. Alan’s life changed dramatically in April 1980 when, as a first-year partner, Ed Huddleson selected him to incorporate a small start-up biotechnology company. Alan often joked that he landed the assignment because he was the only young partner who did not go out to lunch that day. More than 40 years later, that startup, Amgen, is considered one of the most successful biopharmaceutical companies in the world. Soon after, Alan began representing leading radiology ultrasound company Acuson, beginning a professional journey where he would assist emerging companies through venture capital financings, private placements and public offerings. His practice spanned many industries, including PetSmart in the retail space and Mellanox Technologies, Ltd., an Israeli-based semiconductor company, though the life sciences remained his professional passion.
In December 2014, Alan became the first individual without a science background to receive the Life Sciences Leadership Award at the California Life Sciences Pantheon Awards, which recognize leaders who make exceptional contributions across the pharmaceutical, biotech, and allied industries. Specifically, he was recognized for his “pioneering leadership in helping numerous emerging biotech companies get their start and unwavering encouragement of their efforts to bring drugs and medical devices to market, and for promoting the Northern California life science cluster.” He was also proud to have been recognized as one of America’s 100 Most Influential Lawyers in the 1994, 1997, 2000, and 2006 editions of the National Law Journal.
In addition to his professional success, Alan was fiercely devoted to charitable causes. From 1991 through 1994, he served as the President of the Board of Directors of the National Kidney Foundation of Northern California Inc., and in March 2021 Alan was elected to the NKF’s national Board of Directors. In September 2020, Alan was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. He continued to serve on the NKF and Buck boards until his passing. In addition, UC Berkeley always had a special place in Alan’s heart. Through connections from his cousin, Ed Weiner, Alan visited the Cal men’s basketball locker room after the team’s last regular season game in 1959, the year Cal would go on to win the NCAA basketball championship under coach Pete Newell. Eleven-year-old Alan wanted to go to Cal from then on. Though he attended Cal during tumultuous times (People’s Park, the Vietnam War), Alan loved his time there, where he was a political science major and president of his fraternity, Pi Lambda Phi. Years later, Alan served on the board of directors of the Cal Alumni Association. He served as President of CAA from 2009 to 2011 and as an alumni member of The Regents of the University of California from 2011 to 2013. Since 2008, he served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the UC Berkeley Foundation and as a member of the honorary Berkeley Fellows. For many years he participated on the Board of Advisors for the UC Berkeley College of Chemistry and the Board of the UC Berkeley Library. In September 2015, Alan and his beloved wife Agnès were honored as “Builders of Berkeley,” and Alan was recognized in Cal publications a number of times for his enthusiastic support of Cal athletics.
Notwithstanding all of his professional and philanthropic achievements, Alan never forgot his humble beginnings in San Francisco. His desk always featured a photo of his maternal grandfather Joseph Spindel, a Polish immigrant, posed proudly in front of the family tailor shop on Balboa Street in San Francisco.
Alan is survived by his wife Agnès, his two wonderful sons Jonathan (Julia) and David (Laura), his four beloved grandchildren Ella, Ethan, Laina, and Trevor, all of whom brought him great joy, and his sister Debra Mendelson. Alan was also a proud member of the Bohemian Club, where he made many lifetime friendships. An ardent Bay Area sports fan, Alan regularly attended games with Agnès, Jonathan, David, and the grandchildren. He counted himself among the San Francisco 49ers “faithful” all the way back to the Kezar Stadium days, and Alan embraced the San Jose Sharks beginning with the team’s inaugural season at the Cow Palace. Fittingly, his final moments were spent cheering the San Francisco Giants during Game 1 of the 2021 NLDS Playoffs at Oracle Park.
A memorial service will be held at Congregation Sherith Israel, 2266 California Street, San Francisco at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 24, 2021 (to attend, please RSVP by Monday, October 18 at https://alan.mendelsons.org/rsvp). In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution to Alan’s preferred charities. Visit https://alan.mendelsons.org for details.