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Robert Inexperienced Obituary (1931 – 2021) – San Francisco, CA

Robert L Green
March 20, 1931 – December 14, 2021
by Nicole V. Gagné
“In the many organizations Bob launched during his lifetime, the focus was always the element of community service, seeking to make the world a better place,” says attorney Raymond P. Haas of his friend Robert L. Green, entrepreneur, educator, and Philanthropist, who passed away on December 14, 2021, at the age of 90. Known as a pioneer in social entrepreneurship, Green devoted his life to expanding the fields of health care and education in the US and abroad, founding Community Psychiatric Centers, the largest chain of investor-owned psychiatric hospitals in the United States, as well as Vivra Inc., the nation’s second-largest provider of dialysis services. Green was a co-founder of both San Francisco University High School, one of the city’s premiere private college preparatory high schools, and Education Partners, which improved reading and math outcomes for upwards of one million elementary school students from marginalized communities across the country. Green was also an active supporter of numerous creative and educational institutions throughout the Bay Area, including KQED, SFMOMA, Stanford University, and University of California, Berkeley.
Green’s lifetime of entrepreneurial creativity was fueled by his optimism and positivity, which served as an inspiration to his colleagues and students as well as his daughters and grandchildren. His hard work produced not just success but also profound innovation, and all who knew him took his example to heart. A visionary thinker who proved to be ahead of his time in numerous fields, Green launched Sutter Capital Corporation, one of the Bay Area’s first venture capital firms, in the early 1960s. With Sutter Capital he explored a wide range of business opportunities, from nursing homes to trout farms and donut shops; ultimately he turned his energies toward health care and founded Community Psychiatric Centers (CPC) in 1968.
Under Green’s leadership, CPC developed an expanding network of psychiatric hospitals, in which the costs for patients were significantly reduced. Government-run hospitals had ordinarily involved long stays for patients, which could last for years. The development of tranquilizers and psychotropic drugs allowed for shorter hospital stays, and CPC rose to the occasion of this new demand for acute short-stay hospitals, providing placements for shorter hospitalizations. Green led CPC to achieve eighty consecutive quarters of growth in the two decades from 1969 to 1989. CPC went public and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 1978, and Forbes magazine described the firm as “the class act of the country’s psychiatric hospital chains.” CPC went on to purchase Priory Hospital, the oldest and largest private psychiatric hospital in London. That expansion in turn formed the basis of England’s Priory Hospitals Group, which grew into England’s largest provider of private acute psychiatric care.
A further outgrowth of CPC was the establishment of Vivra Inc., which also went public under Green’s leadership. The roots of Vivra (French for “will live”) can be traced back to 1973, when CPC purchased a trio of medical units specializing in hemodialysis treatments. CPC expanded this dialysis division to over 170 dialysis centers throughout the United States, serving some 12,000 patients, in independent facilities as well as in hospitals nationwide. In 1989 it became the independent company Vivra, with Green as President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of Directors.
While still engaged with CPC in the early 1970s, Green followed his equally strong commitment to education and became a co-founder, along with Haas, of San Francisco University High School (UHS), a private college preparatory high school that opened in 1975. Green served on the UHS board until the late 1970s. “It couldn’t have happened without Bob,” Haas recalls. “He was essential in the financial planning and management of UHS. Bob had outstanding business acumen and knew how to get to the essence of things. His approach to analysis was to simplify matters – without over-simplifying them. He could focus on the key drivers and get to the heart of what was important.”
Green’s most far-reaching contribution to American education came in 1995, when he teamed with educator and entrepreneur Adam Berman to create Education Partners (EP), with Green serving as Chairman and Berman as President and CEO. “Bob was a social-impact entrepreneur who was thoroughly passionate about health care and education,” Berman explains, “and he was eager to raise the level of academic achievement for financially disadvantaged children. I had learned about Johns Hopkins’ evidence-based reading program through a friend of Bob’s, and Education Partners brought that reading program into schools Title 1. The aim was to help schools rethink what was being taught and how students were being taught, assessed, and tutored, so that each child could reach their potential .”
EP brought these programs to 200 schools, training principals in providing leadership as well as teachers in the skills to implement evidence-based reading programs. EP also published materials for the program, developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, in another 1600 schools. Teachers and principals proved eager to implement these programs and embraced the new possibilities. As a result, students in the programs excelled, jumping ahead in reading by more than a year in comparison to their peers at similar schools.
“Through both our training and publishing divisions, we impacted one million children in over 1800 schools across the United States,” notes Berman. “Bob was a wonderful, remarkable person – one of my dearest mentors in life as well as business. He was a role model for me. I am truly indebted to him and so grateful for the opportunity he provided to develop myself, not only as an entrepreneur but also as a person.”
Another facet of Green’s commitment to education and community can be seen in the time he spent teaching a popular class in entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley; there were also the numerous talks and public speaking engagements he gave during the CPC years, bringing humor and insight to the business and financial topics that were his specialty. Always learning and evolving even after his retirement, Green was in his seventies when he returned to UC Berkeley and earned his master’s degree in creative writing.
An important supporter of San Francisco’s non-profit public media outlet KQED, Green served as a trustee and vice-chairman. When KQED was pressed financially, he arranged for EP to rent office space there, creating a workplace for upwards of 100 EP employees. The broader range of Green’s philanthropic activities included his work as a supporter of both the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and “The Next Generation Campaign” of American Conservatory Theater; he also served as a trustee of Mount Zion Hospital and was a donor to the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.
Born on March 20, 1931, in Los Angeles, Green experienced the loss of his father, Dr. Leonard Green, when young Robert was 12 years old. An only child, he demonstrated his innate ambition and entrepreneurial instincts at an early age, selling bottles of Coca-Cola on the beaches of Santa Monica. He eventually went on to attend Stanford University, and after a stint in the US Army, Green attended Stanford Law School. Later in life he would establish two endowments at Stanford, the Robert L. Green Undergraduate Scholarship Fund and the Robert L. Green Athletic Scholarship Fund.
During his years at Stanford Law School, Green renewed his boyhood friendship with Alan Sieroty, who would become a Democratic politician and California State Assemblyman and State Senator. “Bob had a degree in accounting as well as law,” Sieroty recalls, “and very few students do that.” After marrying Susan Wolf of San Francisco, Green joined the San Francisco law firm of Heller, Ehrman, White, and McAuliffe. While working there, as Sieroty relates, “he would get up early in the morning and investigate other businesses, which finally grew into starting his own business.” Green’s creative outlook and entrepreneurial spirit led him to quip to his fellow lawyers, “I’d rather be the client,” and he left the firm to found Sutter Capital Corporation. A quintessential self-made man, Green founded Community Psychiatric Centers later in the decade, initiating a lifetime commitment to putting his business skills to work in the furtherance of community service.
Green’s restless creativity envisioned numerous other enterprises over the years, ranging from a chain of burrito stores to a new cologne line. One new business he oversaw in his last years brought him into the field of viticulture, with the 12-acre green vineyard purchased along with a home in the Napa Valley. There he established Green Vineyard, adding another dimension to his creative expression and entrepreneurial drive. With Green Vineyard, he found great satisfaction in sitting outdoors and looking at the gardens with the love of his life, Susan. It was in his Napa home, near his garden and the lush vineyard which inspired him, that Green passed away at the end of last year, surrounded by his family.
Green’s lifelong impulse was always to see the possibilities and potentials of life’s circumstances. These were the qualities that informed his talent as a mentor to so many others, which kept him active long into his retirement and which vitalized his urge to continue learning from the people around him. His attitude was perhaps best characterized by the witty poem of Florence McLandburgh, which he adopted as a personal motto:
Twixt optimist and pessimist,
The difference is droll.
The optimist sees the donut;
The pessimist, the hole.
Robert L. Green is survived by Susan, his wife of 64 years; his daughters Wendy DeWald and Julie Green; and his grandsons Noah DeWald, Joshua DeWald, and Dylan Smith.

Published by San Francisco Chronicle on Jun. 8, 2022.

34465541-95D0-45B0-BEEB-B9E0361A315ATo plant trees in memory, please visit the Sympathy Store.

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