Former Senior Vice Chancellor Steve Barclay, Key Financial Architect of Mission Bay Campus, Dies

By Nina Bai

Stephen BarclayStephen J. Barclay, MBA, the former senior vice chancellor of Finance and Administration who guided UC San Francisco through state budget cutbacks as well as the planning of the Mission Bay campus, has died. He was 70.

Barclay died on Dec. 21 at UCSF Medical Center of complications from lymphoma, according to his family.

When he retired from UCSF in 2010, Barclay was responsible for the University’s core finance, administrative and operation functions and campus services. He managed a diverse Finance and Administration workforce of more than 1,200 employees. Over the course of his tenure, Barclay served four UCSF chancellors.

“Steve was a treasured member of the UCSF leadership,” said Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS. “His vision and thoughtful planning helped UCSF remain one of the top universities in the world amid a state budget crisis, and enabled the University to set the financial course to grow Mission Bay into the thriving life sciences hub that it is today. His contributions were significant and long lasting.”

Barclay began his tenure at UCSF in April 1994 after more than a decade at UC Berkeley, where he rose to the position of associate vice chancellor. He arrived at a time of great expansion for the University, as it began looking beyond the flagship Parnassus Heights campus for more research space. In 1999, UCSF broke ground on a new, 57-acre campus at Mission Bay. Over the years, Barclay played a leadership role in virtually every new capital construction plan and the development of the campus infrastructure required to sustain them.

“You had to have somebody who knew how to provide all the support services for multiple sites, transportation, parking, police, information technology for an increasingly complex working environment. All those things had to be thought about and it all got done. That was the magic of Steve Barclay,” said Eric Vermillion, MA, former vice chancellor of finance, a colleague and friend.

Navigated UCSF Through Tough Budget Times

In the 1990s, Barclay helped navigate the short-lived merger of the UCSF and Stanford medical centers. He also focused on coping with mounting cutbacks in the state funding of the University of California. “Steve spent most of his time at UCSF dealing with state budget reductions and how to keep the University’s teaching and research mission on an even keel,” Vermillion said.

Zina Mirsky, RN, EdD, former associate dean of the School of Nursing, remembers Barclay dropping in every other week or so to deliver some good news during those difficult times – he would save the bad news for scheduled meetings. “He was, in my mind, one of the most open people. He had energy, he had humor. Even in the worst of times, he had a natural generosity of spirit,” Mirsky said.

Haile Debas, MD, who was one of UCSF chancellors during Barclay’s time at UCSF, said Barclay was dedicated, a visionary and a problem-solver.

“Steve’s passing represents a huge loss to all of us at UCSF who have had the privilege to work with him,” Debas said. “His leadership was especially impactful because it came at a time when UCSF was coping with severe budget cuts, during the ill-fated UCSF-Stanford merger, and at a time when UCSF was planning and building its Mission Bay campus. Steve was an optimist and could always be relied upon to come with solutions to our most difficult financial and administrative challenges.

“We will miss his friendship and sense of humor, but will always remember the significant contributions he made to UCSF.”

Though he initially retired from UCSF in 2008, Barclay came out of retirement to lead the completion of the new campus at Mission Bay, overseeing planning, funding, construction and operation. The strong bonds he built between the central administration and the faculty leadership were key to the project’s success.

[Steve] was highly accomplished professionally, but more importantly he genuinely cared for all the people around him; he was a stalwart in our campus community, and he was an exceptional friend and colleague.

Mark Laret, President and CEO of UCSF Health

“Steve embodied the best of UCSF,” said Mark Laret, president and CEO of UCSF Health. “He was highly accomplished professionally, but more importantly he genuinely cared for all the people around him; he was a stalwart in our campus community, and he was an exceptional friend and colleague. He will be remembered for all of those things, and especially for his kindness and warmth.”

Barclay will be remembered by many for his thoughtful mentorship, both in his personal interactions and in instituting programs for leadership development that shifted the culture of the University. “He took a particular interest in making sure there were formal programs to help people move internally so we wouldn’t lose people. I don’t know a single person who wasn’t touched by him,” Vermillion said.

He also was stalwart in his commitment that UCSF be a good neighbor and partner in the community by ensuring that services, such as the UCSF fitness centers, shuttle services and child care, were available for use by the community and not just the UCSF community.

Service Across SF and the Bay Area

In addition to his work at UCSF, Barclay served as the treasurer of the UCSF Foundation, president of the University of California’s Retirement Board, and director on the board of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. After retirement, he continued to give his time and expertise, volunteering on the finance and construction comittees of the Sonoma Valley Hospital.

Barclay was born in San Francisco in 1946. He earned a bachelor’s degree from San Jose State University in 1970 and an MBA from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., in 1986. He moved to Missoula, Mont., in 1972 where he met and married his wife, Diana. He lived in Missoula for 10 years, counting those years in “Big Sky Country” as some of the happiest in his life.  

Stephen Barclay and Haile Debas cheers cups in 2006 at The Pub at Mission Bay
Stephen J. Barclay (right), MBA, with former Chancellor Haile Debas, MD, at The Pub at UCSF Mission Bay in 2006, just a few years after the campus opened its first building. Photo by Susan Merrell

He worked at the University of Montana from 1975 to 1982 as food service director, returning to California in 1982 to accept a position at UC Berkeley as manager of campus restaurants and catering operations. By 1990, he had been promoted to associate vice chancellor for business and administrative services.

Barclay was an avid golfer, a game he picked up in college, and an accomplished cook who took great pleasure in celebrating with friends and family. He is survived by his wife, Diana; mother, Maxine; brother and sister-in-law, Jerry Barclay and Caryn Combis; and in-laws Linda and Richard Hart.

According to his wishes, Barclay’s ashes will be scattered at sea. Memorials in his name can be made by sending a check, payable to the UCSF Foundation, and designating “Dr. Wei Ai Lymphoma Research Fund” on the memo line, to: UCSF; P.O. Box 45339; San Francisco, CA 94145-0339.