In Passing: Paul F. Glenn, 1930 – 2020

By Montecito Journal   |   October 29, 2020

Paul F. Glenn was well known among commodity traders and medical researchers. He deftly handled the double-edged sword of long and short positions in volatile commodities markets, which enabled him to reach another of his goals beyond financial success: philanthropy in medical research.

Paul F. Glenn, commodity trading extraordinaire, passionate gardener, avid golfer, singer, and philanthropist

Paul Foss Glenn was born and raised in Sharon, Pennsylvania. He was a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy (1948), Princeton University (1952) and Harvard Law School (1955). 

Although he passed both the New York and Pennsylvania bar exams, Paul had already decided he wanted to trade commodity futures rather than practice law. As a co-founder of the Bull and Bear Club of Harvard Law School, Paul had become increasingly interested in investing. In 1956 he joined Dean Witter & Co. launching a career spanning almost six decades trading commodity futures. He became a member of the Chicago Board of Trade and other commodity exchanges, and played a key role in the creation of several commodity trading firms. With his success, Paul broadened his investment activities to include oil and gas exploration, venture capital and other areas; co-founding Cycad Group, a venture capital firm in Santa Barbara, California.

Paul was a passionate gardener, creating a widely recognized garden of almost four acres at his Montecito home largely devoted to cycads, succulents, palms, and araucaria among the native coastal live oaks. He was an avid golfer and member of several golf clubs during his life, including Winged Foot Golf Club, and Paradise Valley Country Club, and was a member of both Birnam Wood Golf Club and The Valley Club of Montecito at the time of his death. Paul often lamented that the hundreds of golf clubs he owned were defective and were his real handicap. Typically dressed in particularly colorful shirts and one-of-a-kind trousers when he played, he claimed they helped to distract opponents.

He enjoyed watching movies, ranging from Godzilla to The Godfather to Singin’ in the Rain. Together with three law school classmates he formed a barbershop quartet that performed as the Dodos, cutting an album and singing at events throughout the greater Boston area. Paul’s knack for timing and humor was as great as a stand-up comic’s. 

As a philosophy major at Princeton, Paul developed strong opinions supporting the moral arguments for property rights, rule of law, capitalism and individual responsibility. Early on he decided he wanted to improve the human condition in some significant way, and to leave the world “in a bit better shape than I found it.”

An only grandson of aging grandparents, Paul witnessed the challenges of aging and age-related diseases first hand. The experience left an imprint that formed the basis of his future philanthropic focus. In 1965, he founded the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research with the mission “to extend the healthy years of life through research on mechanisms of biology that govern normal human aging and its related physiological decline, with the objective of translating research into interventions that will extend healthspan with lifespan.” His financial support allowed the Glenn Foundation to establish Paul F. Glenn Centers for the Biology of Aging Research at Harvard, Stanford, MIT, the Salk Institute, the Mayo Clinic, Princeton, Einstein College of Medicine, University of Michigan, and the Buck Institute. Through these Centers and other programmatic activity, the Glenn Foundation has funded more than $100 million in basic research.

As Paul liked to remind us, he was the youngest member of the American Gerontological Society when he joined. Paul served on the Advisory Council of the National Institute on Aging and was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the American Aging Association, American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR), and a founding Trustee of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging.

In recent years, Paul was a resident of Casa Dorinda, a retirement community in Montecito, California. He died on September 29, 2020 at the age of 89. Paul was fond of referencing the epitaph on the tombstone of an old Arizona cowboy: “Jack Slade. Done His Damndest,” and then pointing out “Paul F. Glenn done his damndest too.”

Above all, Paul F. Glenn was a gentleman – kind, generous, and compassionate. He will be missed by all who knew him.

Paul has endowed the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research to carry on its mission in perpetuity.

Due to COVID-19, an event celebrating Paul’s life will take place at a later date. 


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