Don Green, man behind SSU’s Green Music Center and “father of Telecom Valley”, dies at 90


Green was a regular member of the audience at performances at the center, enjoying music for nearly a decade. He served on the centre’s board of directors with Birdsall.

“The music center has become something quite magical,” she said.

The Greens have also contributed to the Santa Rosa Symphony and its youth orchestras, the Santa Rosa Children’s Choir and the Sonoma County Humane Society.

“Don was a man who, although generally the smartest person in the room, listened more than he spoke,” Worth said. “He encouraged and allowed more than he commanded. He was a dynamic leader, but he understood that leaders have to stay in touch with what it’s like to follow. “

Growing up in wartime Liverpool

Green came from the roots of the working class and the middle class. A redhead with sensitive skin, he was born in Liverpool in 1931, the son of a father who worked in the coal mines at the age of 13 and a mother whose family worked as coal merchants.

When World War II began, Green was evacuated to a farm to protect him from Nazi bombing. But after his mother visited her and assessed the situation, she brought the young boy home after just six weeks.

She said, ‘You come home with me, and if we die in this war, we die together, “Birdsall recalls.” He spent the whole war on the docks in Liverpool.

Although he did not go to school during the war, Green was always interested in learning and fascinated by phones and radios. After marrying his beloved, the former Maureen Eustace, he studied overnight for his engineering degree while working at the British Post. The couple had a son and a daughter, then planned to move abroad.

“His ambition has always been to leave England, but he wanted to have his degree in hand first,” Birdsall said. “Six weeks after I was born, dad emigrated to Montreal with a letter of introduction in his pocket.

After working six months for Standard Telephone Cables, he made enough money to bring his family to Canada in October 1956. But a few years later the family started to move again, this time to San Francisco. The young family traveled to Buffalo, New York, before driving across the United States.

“It was a pretty big time in their life,” Birdsall said. “I think they were instant Californians. “It’s 1960, and there’s folk music, wine and this wonderful creative culture.”

In San Francisco, Green started working at Lynch Communications as a design engineer, and within seven years he was vice president of engineering. Two other children, Duncan and Victoria, joined the family.

In 1968, Green left Lynch to start Digital Telephone Systems at Novato, remaining through two acquisitions and retiring at age 55. But retirement was really not his thing.

“He retired for about three weeks and then came up with the idea for Optilink, a fiber optic company,” Birdsall said. “Then he launched Advanced Fiber Communications. “

When that company went public in 1996, Green owned shares and options in AFC that were worth $ 137 million in 1997.

“When you’re a CEO of a business, the best way to measure your success is the market, and it’s been a huge success,” Birdsall said. “It brought a lot of wealth to the people who were part of the company. “

This paved the way for the couple’s $ 10 million donation to the Green Music Center, which at the time was the biggest giveaway in California State University history.

AFC also held 500,000 shares of networking startup Cerent Corp., which was bought by Cisco Systems in 1999 for $ 6.8 billion, which is considered the highest price ever paid for a tech company. with closed capital.

“The deal instantly created 30 new millionaires,” Green wrote in her memoir.

Pioneer of the technology company

While being synonymous with Music Center, Green has also left a lasting imprint and contribution to Sonoma County businesses and industry through his pioneering work in technological innovation.

At its peak in the late 1990s, Petaluma’s Telecom Valley was made up of 60 or 70 small tech companies employing around 5,000 people. These entrepreneurial companies laid the foundation – literally the cable lines – for modern high-speed internet.

Green’s Optilink was “the seed” and from there there was a “huge explosion of mental resources,” said Webley, who now runs Trevi Systems, a water purification technology company. at Rohnert Park. Webley also contributed financially to the construction of the Green Music Center.

Webley and Stanfield are examples of many of Green’s colleagues who went on to start their own tech companies. And Green often became an investor, a board member, or both in these companies. Stanfield now runs Tibit Communications in Petaluma, maker of a device that fits in the palm of a hand and enables high-speed digital connections to homes, businesses and cell towers.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.