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

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Telecommunications engineer Don Green, known as the “father of Telecom Valley” in Petaluma and half the couple behind the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, died Monday in Mexico while he was on vacation.

Green, who turned 90 on May 12, had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for 17 years. Together with his wife, Maureen, Green paved the way for funding the construction of the Green Music Center with an initial donation of $ 10 million in 1997. Maureen Green passed away on November 6, 2020.

Green’s co-founding of Optilink in 1987 spawned Sonoma County’s Telecom Valley, an innovation hub that flourished from the mid-1990s to the mid-1990s.

“He was a very stable leader who never got angry or berated people,” said John Webley, one of Green’s first employees at Optilink and later his business partner at Advanced Fiber Communications and close friend during over 30 years.

Webley remembered Green as a larger than life figure who, in addition to his telecommunications companies, has done so much for Sonoma County through his philanthropy and generosity.

“He was behind so many charities,” he said of Green. “He did a lot of community work quietly. “

Rich Stanfield, who went to work for Green as Vice President of Sales at Advanced Fiber in 1994, called him a mentor and a great friend.

“Don was a guy I would do anything for – the best boss I’ve ever had by far,” said Stanfield, who had no plans to move to North Bay but after flying here. with his wife to have dinner with Green and his wife, he accepted the position at Advanced Fiber.

“She’s the most genuine person you’ve probably ever met in your life.”

Green wrote a memoir, “Defining Moments,” in 2016, which traces his life from his working-class roots in England to his successful career in Canada from 1956 to 1960 and in California from 1960.

The Greens moved to Santa Rosa in 1987 and began singing in the Sonoma State University Concert Choir, then helped found the Sonoma Bach Choir, founded in 1991 in Sonoma State.

They were also active members of the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa and sang with the church choir.

His dream of a world-class music hall came true on September 29, 2012, when the Green Music Center held its inauguration.

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 companies laid the groundwork – literally the cable lines – to connect to what later became the information superhighway, now commonly known as the 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 and contributed financially to the construction of 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 or 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.

Telecom Valley essentially ran out of steam during what Webley described as the “epic collapse” of the US tech industry in 2001, primarily because it was an oversized industry. This period can also be remembered by many as the bursting of the tech bubble.

Many of these early tech startups grew up in South County, then sold their shares to investors after the initial public offerings, or were acquired by larger players in the broad field of telecommunications and hardware and hardware. software.

However, some of these entrepreneurs like Webley and Stanfield continue to develop new technology in Sonoma County. They credit Green for his influence and practical advice.

“A lot of people refer to Don. He was the leader behind it all,” Stanfield said of the first wave of technological energy and abundant innovation in Telecom Valley.

Outside of his business endeavors, close friends of Green have said he enjoys music, tennis, table tennis, travel and spending time at his second home in Sea Ranch, near the Pacific Ocean.

Webley, who last spoke to his friend three or four days ago, said that although Parkinson’s disease had taken its toll on Green’s body, “his mind was sharp.”

Webley fondly remembered traveling the world on business with Green. He said Green’s philosophy was to make up for the rigors of logging countless miles of air travel by relaxing with delicious food and wine at great restaurants wherever he went.

Green looks like you have to “treat yourself” and he would order a “good plate of food and a good bottle of wine” and enjoy the company of his friends or associates, Webley said.

Green also studied birds and named the grape vineyard and winery he had with his daughter after one of them, the Black Kite, which inhabits Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.

Asked what the folks in Sonoma County who might associate his name with the Green Music Center but didn’t know should remember the tech business pioneer, philanthropist, world traveler, music lover Green, Stanfield replied, “He was a big man. kind.”

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