Alumnus who helped acquire San Francisco Campus to receive honorary doctoral degree

Jim and Gretchen Mair

Jim and Gretchen Mair

Prominent Silicon Valley real estate executive, former regent and alumnus Jim Mair ’68 will receive an honorary doctoral degree from University of the Pacific in recognition of his transformative impact on California and that state’s first and oldest university.

Mair, president of South Bay Development Co., which he founded in 1978, negotiated the purchase of the current San Francisco Campus, the university’s largest real estate acquisition since moving to Stockton in 1924. Located downtown in the South of Market area, it was recognized by the San Francisco Business Times as the best office real estate deal in San Francisco in 2011. 

“It was a fairly hot real estate market at the time, and we had to jump on it to get the building,” Mair recalled. “It's worked out great for the dental school.”

The deal allowed the Dugoni School of Dentistry to expand its footprint into a state-of-the-art facility and created space for other programs to be added.

“Moving into this beautiful space eight years ago has transformed how our students learn and allowed us to expand oral healthcare services for our patients,” said Nader A. Nadershahi, dean of the Dugoni School of Dentistry and vice provost of the San Francisco Campus. “We are extremely grateful to Jim for securing this facility and his guidance through the entire building project.”

Mair’s connection to Pacific began more than 50 years ago. A Minnesota native, he moved across the country to attend Pacific without ever visiting the campus.

“Back then we didn’t tour colleges. When I got off the plane in San Francisco I said, ‘why are we going back East?’ he recalled with a laugh. “But from the minute I got there I loved the school.”

Mair earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He was part of the men’s swimming and water polo teams and a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity, where he created life-long friendships. 

The Mairs as students in 1965

The Mairs during their time as students at Pacific in 1965.

He also met his future wife the first week of college. Gretchen (Wolf) Mair ’68 earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pacific. She was a member of Delta Gamma sorority and voted Homecoming Queen her senior year.

The Mair’s connection to Pacific continued through their daughter, Carolyn ’97 and their late daughter Meredith ’94, as well as their son-in-law Clint Fleener ’94.

After graduating from Pacific, Mair went on to earn a master’s degree from Santa Clara University. He stayed in Silicon Valley to work in commercial real estate where he founded South Bay Development Company, one of the most successful real estate companies in California. 

Students have directly benefited from the family’s generosity over the years. The Mairs have created two endowed scholarships in their late daughter’s name to support Media X students and those pursuing careers in education.
“We got a wonderful education at Pacific, and we would like to see that happen for more people,” Gretchen Mair said. “That is why we created the scholarships in our daughter's memory.”

The Mairs have met many of the scholarship recipients. “It has been a lot of fun for me,” Jim Mair said. “The students are wonderful, and we are happy for them.”

“Jim has been very generous with giving back to Pacific,” said Kathy Janssen ‘68, former chair of the Board of Regents. “He truly is one of those who give time, talent and treasure.” 

Gretchen and Jim Mair standing in front of wall reading "The Mair Family Foundation Seminar Room"

The Mairs at the Seminar Room at Dugoni

The Mairs also have made donations in support of the Alex and Jeri Vereschagin Alumni House, the Eve Zimmerman Tennis Complex and the sand volleyball courts.

Mair, who served as a regent from 2008-2016, was recognized with the Pacific Alumni Association Distinguished University Service Award in 2015. Of the honorary doctoral degree he will receive, Mair said he is “blown away by the honor.”

“Jim’s dedication to Pacific, first as a student leader and later as a regent, is unsurpassed,” President Christopher Callahan said. “The impact of the Mairs’ generosity on our students will continue to be felt for decades to come. And on a personal level, Jean and I are very grateful for Jim and Gretchen’s support and friendship. They are both truly great Pacificans.”

Though the university has changed, Mair said Pacific holds the same values.

“It’s a feeling, and you can see it in the students. It’s very student-oriented with small classes, and most of the students all know each other, which is really unique in today’s environment,” he said. “I hope that never changes.”

Mair will receive the honorary degree—one of the highest the university bestows—at University Commencement on Saturday, May 13.