A few days ago, on Monday the 24th, John Arrillaga passed away in California at the age of 84.  We’re not sure many Basques know the story, or of the achievements, hidden behind that name.  We have to admit we didn’t.

The most obvious part of this story is that he was the “creator” of Silicon Valley alongside his business partner, Richard Peery.  There, for over 50 years, via their firm Peery Arrillaga, they built over 20 million square feet of corporate campuses for Apple, Google, Cisco, and more  

Fortune once described him as “perhaps the richest man in Silicon Valley who didn’t make his money with a tech company”.

But Arrillaga was one of five children born to a humble Basque family that had emigrated to California.  His father was a shopkeeper in the southern half of the state, and money was tight: he couldn’t afford to buy a blazer for his high school yearbook photo, so he had to borrow one from his chemistry teacher.  The sleeves were six inches (15 cm) too short.  He was 6’4″ (1.93 m) tall by then.

He studied at the University of Stanford on a sports scholarship.  He was a magnificent basketball player.  At that time, the sports scholarship covered tuition, and the recipients had to help pay for their other expenses by working for the university.  Arrillaga had up to six jobs at the same time in order to cover all his expenses, from washing dishes to delivering mail to gardening.  That scholarship allowed him to graduate with a degree in geography.

Philanthropist

He never forgot the opportunity that scholarship and that university gave him.  His contributions to the University have made him one of its most important philanthropists since, as the university itself reports, “reshaped the Stanford campus with extraordinary generosity, professional expertise and volunteer service.”

For almost six decades, Arrillaga dedicated his experience and important financial resources to projects across Stanford campus, from sports facilities to graduate student housing, as well as a wide range of programs to support under- and post-grads.

That commitment to community was handed down to his children, as well.  His daughter Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen wrote, “While my father taught me many important lessons … two stand out: Give as much as you possibly can, and give equally from among your resources –time, mind and money. These are principles I follow every day.”

Basketball player and time in Bilbao

But his time at college didn’t just give him a chance to study, though he was quite obviously very grateful for that, but it also gave him a chance to make a name for himself in basketball.  He was ranked third-team All American in the 1959-60 season.

Equipo Aguilas Bilbao 1960-1961 (Foto: Club Águilas de Baloncesto)
Aguilas Bilbao team 1960-1961 (Photo: Club Águilas de Baloncesto)

John Arrillaga, well aware of his roots, decided to research his origins, and as he had no money to study abroad, he signed up to play for the Bilbao Águilas in 1960-61, which then played in the Liga Nacional.  The Águilas ended up second in the League, just behind Real Madrid.  John Arrillaga was the second highest point-scorer, with 469 points.

After his time in the Basque Country, he returned to the US.  He then played for the NBA, playing for the San Francsico Warriors, which had been the Philadelphia Warriors, and then became the Golden State Warriors.  As Ramón Trecet wrote in an article we’re linking to below, as it is that interesting, he quit for personal reasons, saying he couldn’t stand watching all those married men sleeping with the groupies hanging out outside the changing rooms when they were playing away games.

The Basque connection

Arrillaga never lost that interest in his roots, which was an essential part of who he was.  In 2007, he was among the students who took part in the first ever “Introduction to Basque Studies” course at Stanford.  He took part because “he wanted to learn more about the homeland of his forebears.”

We, and we believe many of our readers, have discovered a profile of an extraordinary “Basque in the world” who was part of that group of our compatriots who, with their hard work, “changed the world.”  We hope, and we expect, that his children will maintain that connection he preserved with the land of his forebears.

We’re sorry to hear of his passing, but we celebrate his life.  His family and friends, while feeling the pain of his passing, know that John Arrillaga’s mark has left a deep and lasting impression in the memory of the society he contributed so much to.

Goian bego

We’ll leave you with a series of articles to learn more about the different facets of the life of this amazing Basque.

SF Gate – 25/1/2022 -USA

John Arrillaga, billionaire Silicon Valley developer, dies at 84

John Arrillaga, who transformed California’s Silicon Valley as the force behind some of its most famous corporate campuses, has died. He was 84.He died on Monday, “being held by his loving wife, Gioia, and his two loving children, John Jr. and Laura,” his daughter, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, wrote in a blog post. She is married to venture capitalist Marc Andreessen

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Stanford – 25/1/2022 – USA

John Arrillaga, longtime Stanford philanthropist and Silicon Valley real estate developer, dies at 84

John Arrillaga, ’60, a former scholarship recipient who became one of Silicon Valley’s most successful real estate developers and Stanford’s most generous donors, died on Jan. 24. He was 84. Stanford alumnus John Arrillaga has played a key role in the development of many campus projects and has made extraordinary contributions to undergraduate scholarship programs, capital projects and athletics at the university over the years.  For nearly six decades, Arrillaga devoted his expertise and significant financial resources to projects across the Stanford campus, from athletics facilities to graduate student housing, as well as to a broad range of programs supporting undergraduate and graduate students

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Stanford – 1/7/2022 – USA

John Arrillaga and Stanford: Generosity begets generosity

Stanford alumnus, friend and benefactor John Arrillaga, ’60, has made a gift of $151 million to the university. The gift, Stanford’s largest single gift ever from a living individual, will be used over time to support a variety of university projects.

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Stanford – 3/2007 – USA

Basque Studies Debut

One student was interested in taking the new course because she owned an Orbea bicycle, handcrafted in Basque country. Some of the other 17 students had Basque boyfriends or grandfathers, or had been to Basque parties and enjoyed the pintxos (tapas) and Rioja wine.

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El Confidencial – 1/7/2016 – España

John Arrillaga, el vasco dueño de Silicon Valley

Si buscáis John Arrillaga en Wikipedia, aparecerá el perfil y los datos de un poderoso empresario estadounidense de origen vasco, que a mediados de los sesenta se plantó en medio de lo que ahora es Silicon Valley, entonces llamado Santa Clara Valley.

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