|PHOTO BY DAVID ELLIOTT LEWIS
I first met Bob during Bevan Dufty‚Äôs campaign for mayor at the beginning of 2012. I immediately thought that he was going to be a shooting star in San Francisco political, cultural and social life, especially in our LGBT community.
Bob radiates energy and honesty that is contagious. He is open-minded and willing to consider every viewpoint on any issue. He‚Äôs also very, very busy, but somehow finds time to be an angel of change for the better.
The son of Mitch and Celeste, he grew up in Lake Tahoe where his dad drove a cab and his mom was a secretary. His dad was an Armenian immigrant who survived a Nazi Labor Camp in World War II. Mom was Mitch‚Äôs sweetheart from Colorado. School was an early passion and he excelled, working hard in the classroom and in the many jobs he had throughout his young academic life.
Athletics were also important. Bob earned 8 varsity letters. This hectic and focused school schedule kept him on track for higher education and also kept him from exploring his sexual identify, which he hoped would just disappear as he worked his butt off. He became both high school class president and student body president.
He saved much of the money he earned for college and was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar, as well as the first person from his high school to be admitted to a top-ten college. Bob passed on an opportunity to be appointed to the Air Force Academy and instead chose Stanford. In his sophomore year, he started his process of coming out, which was aided when he was caught in a rip tide and saved by a lifeguard he found really hot.
As an undergrad, he became the first openly gay editor-in-chief of The Stanford Daily student newspaper, studied arms control and international relations, and was on Stanford‚Äôs Axe Committee. The opportunity to advance gay rights became high on his radar and Bob became a regular LGBT speaker in classes, dorms, and fraternities.
After success and a whetted appetite for political action, he went to law school at the University of Virginia, where he again worked his way through. While in DC, Bob was in a life-threatening accident when a truck that was fleeing police hit him. He spent 2 days in a coma and several months recovering.
At Virginia, he was an editor of The Virginia Law Review and was the chairman of its first-ever symposium on LGBT rights. He volunteered with the ACLU, was a leader in the LGBT student group and advocated successfully for LGBT rights wherever he found himself.
After law school, Bob moved to New York to live with his then-boyfriend near NYU. He accepted a job with legal powerhouse Latham & Watkins, becoming the firm‚Äôs first openly gay attorney among its 800 lawyers. Bob worked as a Wall Street lawyer for almost two years before returning to San Francisco to do Silicon Valley start-up work, venture finance and healthcare law.
Bob worked with President Obama‚Äôs National LGBT Finance Committee, raising money to help with the reelection. The goal was not only to win the election, but also to increase the influence of LGBT people within the administration and to help the LGBT community fully claim its place on the national political stage.
Bob helped with several presidential visits to the Bay Area and was part of the team to bring Washington State‚Äôs pro-marriage governor to San Francisco for fundraisers. President and Michelle Obama thanked Bob by having him join them and other supporters at a White House Holiday Party and at the Inauguration.
After the campaign, former San Francisco supervisor Leslie Katz asked Bob to join the national Victory Fund Campaign Board to help elect LGBT candidates nationwide. Through the Victory Fund, Bob works to advance LGBT rights by making sure we have a seat at the table in cities, counties, state legislatures and Washington, DC. Bob works closely with California‚Äôs first openly gay congressman, Rep. Mark Takano, who is also the first-ever LGBT person of color in Congress.
Genentech, the biotech pioneer in South San Francisco, recruited Bob to represent its finance and business development departments. That led to a variety of opportunities in venture capital, mergers and acquisitions and global finance. Bob led the legal negotiations to establish America‚Äôs first LGBT history museum, which opened on Castro at 18th in 2011.
Bob recently joined the board of the LGBT Community Center, and is part of a working group determined to improve the center‚Äôs financial footing. As he says, ‚ÄúThe time is now for the center to set itself on a path for the future.‚ÄĚ Bob was on the founding board of Out & Equal, is an advisor to the anti-bullying group Bay Area Youth Summit (BAYS), and also volunteers for The Shanti Project.
In 2008, Bob volunteered as a high-level researcher on the No on 8 Campaign. As mentioned earlier, Bob was a campaign manager for Bevan Dufty when he ran for mayor in 2011, recruiting key volunteers, and raising money as part of Bevan‚Äôs early small-donation strategy.
In the last few years, Bob has emerged as a key fundraiser for LGBT candidates, including Scott Wiener, Rebecca Prozan, Campbell mayor Evan Low, and SF College board member Rafael Mandelman. Bob was an early supporter of Rep. Mark Takano, and raised money to help Takano win his 2012 race to become California‚Äôs first openly gay congressman.
Bob was just elected to the board of directors of the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club, the more moderate of San Francisco‚Äôs two largest LGBT political clubs. His favorite quote is: ‚ÄúDarkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄĒMartin Luther King
Asked to name his local heroes, Bob said, ‚ÄúJos√© Sarria first and foremost. And I love that he passed out notes that read, ‚ÄėI am a boy,‚Äô for drag queens to pin to their dresses, so the police couldn‚Äôt arrest them for dressing as women with an intent to deceive, which used to be illegal.‚ÄĚ
Meeting Sarria through the LGBT Historical Society was ‚Äúa major thrill,‚ÄĚ Bob says. Bob also lists among his local heroes equality pioneers Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, Supervisor Harvey Milk, and educator Bernard Mayes, who co-founded San Francisco Suicide Prevention, KQED and National Public Radio.
Bob is single and is looking for the right guy to spend his life with.