Lawrence A. Bock ’81 died on July 6, 2016, in Encinitas, California.
(The following was published in the San Diego Union Tribune July 8, 2016:)
Lawrence A. Bock of Olivenhain, a renowned biotech entrepreneur and an educator who founded the San Diego Science Festival and used it as a model to create the USA Science and Engineering Festival, has died of pancreatic cancer.
He was 56.
Bock’s passing on Wednesday was confirmed by USA Science and Engineering, the nation’s largest science festival. Earlier this year, the event drew more than 350,000 people.
“It is with great sadness and heavy heart that we say goodbye to Larry Bock,” the festival’s executive director, Marc Shulman, said in a statement.
“Larry waged a monumental battle with pancreatic cancer. He will be remembered as a brilliant entrepreneur, passionate philanthropist and dedicated family man,” Shulman said. “His passing is a profound loss, but his legacy of inspiring math and science education will have a lasting impact on students and our nation for future generations.”
Bock was born on Sept. 21, 1959 in Brooklyn, N.Y. A short time later, his family moved to Chappaqua, a hamlet in nearby Westchester County.
Bock earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at Bowdoin College in Maine and a master’s in business administration from UCLA.
“(Larry) hoped to go to medical school,” his wife, Diane Bock, said Friday. “(He) did not get in, so he took a job at Genentech, which was a brand new company. He worked in the lab and very soon became interested in the business side of science.
“He loved his time at Genentech — it was exciting and fun. And he went on to grander and grander adventures in science.”
Larry Bock became a highly regarded entrepreneur, helping to found, advise or finance dozens of biotech companies, including Gen-Probe and Idec Pharmaceuticals. He also co-founded San Diego’s Illumina, which is now the world leader in technology for sequencing genes.
“Larry was one of the best venture capitalists I have ever known,” said Ivor Royston, a San Diego oncologist and managing member of Forward Ventures, a life-science venture capital company.
“He was very generous and polite. He never tried to grab the limelight. He just wanted to help,” Royston added. “Larry also was very concerned about the state of science and engineering education in schools. He wanted the nation to produce better scientists, and to have them become more competitive throughout the world.”
That passion to nurture and mentor led Bock to establish the San Diego Science Festival in 2009. It became an annual event that today is known as the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering. Bock also founded the USA Science and Engineering Festival to promote STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — education nationally.
He told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2014: “As a society, we get what we celebrate. We celebrate athletes, pop stars and Hollywood actors and actresses, but we don’t celebrate science and engineering. So why not have the largest celebration of science and engineering in the U.S., and that’s what we have endeavored to create.”
Diane Bock said Friday: “The science festival (Larry founded) combines Larry’s love of science, entrepreneurship, jovial spirit, sense of adventure and his fondest hopes and dreams as a dad. He was immensely pleased and proud of it.”
In addition to his wife, Bock is survived by their two daughters, Quincy Bock Stokes and Tasha Bock, both of Olivenhain, and his mother, Uli Proctor of Sierra Madre.