May 19, 1997
Retired engineer/general contractor
Santa Cruz community philanthropist
Jack Baskin is renowned throughout northern California for his company's high-quality housing for low- and moderate-income families and the elderly. He also is among the foremost philanthropists in the Santa Cruz community. In particular, Baskin's relationship with UCSC has flourished for more than 25 years, culminating in his $5 million gift to help launch the Jack Baskin School of Engineering.
Baskin's previous donations to UCSC, totaling more than $1.5 million, have supported computer engineering, instruction in the arts, the Institute of Marine Sciences, Shakespeare Santa Cruz, an endowed chair in psychology, a scholarship in literature, and other departments. Baskin chaired the UC Santa Cruz Foundation for two years and remains a trustee.
Baskin was born on September 20, 1919, in upstate New York. Neither his father, a watchmaker, nor his mother spoke English when they immigrated to the U.S. in 1908. Baskin went to a one-room schoolhouse for grades 1-8 with 30 other students. He and his family worked and saved during the Great Depression so he could attend college, the first in his family to do so. Baskin studied mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado and earned his B.S. in aeronautical engineering from New York University in 1940. His first engineering job paid $28 per week, a considerable sum at the time. A pilot, he was an aeronautical engineer during World War II.
Baskin moved west after the war and obtained his California Professional Engineers License in 1948. He became a general contractor in southern California, working on commercial, industrial, and public construction projects--especially in the booming suburbs of Los Angeles. "I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time with the right skills," Baskin recalls.
In 1967, Baskin moved to Palo Alto and sought to fill what he saw as a "necessity and a void" in affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jack Baskin, Inc., constructed several thousand quality apartments, including a 300-unit cooperative housing development in San Francisco's Western Addition, the San Lorenzo Park Apartments in Santa Cruz, and Independence Square in Watsonville.
Other beneficiaries of Baskin's time and donations over the years include the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County (which he helped found), Dominican Hospital, Cabrillo College, and many organizations for children, families, and senior citizens.
Jack Baskin and his wife, Peggy Downes Baskin, live in Santa Cruz and Carmel.
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