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Bill Otterson


      La Jolla, CA

3.28.1930 / Class of '78 / Solitary plasmacytoma, then bone involvement / Died 11-99

I was diagnosed in 1978, so I have had multiple myeloma for 17 years. My primary treatment doctor is Sid Salmon, head of the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson. I initially had radiation to kill a solid tumor that had eaten away part of a shoulder bone. That was successful and the bone grew back. Salmon put me on chemotherapy: Vincristine, Adriamycin, Melphalan and Prednisone. I responded and went into remission after a year and a half. I continued taking those drugs until I had "maxed out" with Adriamycin. Several years ago, Salmon replaced the chemotherapy with Alpha Interferon, to keep me in remission. After a year, I slipped out of remission, cracked a rib and compressed a disk (ouch!). He put me back on chemotherapy and added Aredia to grow bone mass back.

Last month, I complained of a "dropped foot", and was taken off Vincristine.

I also went through psychological intervention for a year, examining what unrelieved stresses might have reduced my immune system and allowed the cancer cells to multiply. I learned relaxation techniques (helpful in taking medicines, getting teeth cleaned, and other painful things). I believe in God, pray and have friends pray for me. My family is very supportive.

I am active. I play tennis once a week, work all the time. I love my work - I was elected a "National Entrepreneur of the Year for 1996" Friends celebrate my entrepreneurial achievements and my success with cancer.

I am clearly at the edge of the envelope in terms of survivorship. I gave up drinking cheap champagne. I don't have time. It's French champagne for me. I live, love, etc.

I am also building a grassroots patients advocacy group wherein we lobby Congress in support of research for cancer, called the National Association of Cancer Patients (coming soon to a web site near you).

Since I work at the University of California, San Diego and with the biotech community, Salk, Scripps Research, etc., I have access to the latest in cancer research.   


Bill passed away November 24th, 1999.

Here are some notes from a website run by the University of California, where Bill directed the CONNECT program:

William W. Otterson, director of UCSD CONNECT at the University of California, San Diego, a successful entrepreneur who used his business experience to benefit hundreds of small start-up companies and tackle large public policy issues, died today of cancer. He was 69.

During his 13 years at UCSD, Otterson built CONNECT into an internationally renowned program that has been studied and modeled by other organizations from as far away as Sweden and as nearby as UC Davis. CONNECT was founded in 1985 by a group of university and community leaders to enhance regional economic development by accelerating the growth of high technology enterprises in San Diego.

Otterson became director shortly after the program’s founding and developed the unique characteristics which have enabled the program to make a significant advance in the art of entrepreneurship with the intellectual capital around a research university.

-- snip -- (full text at

Otterson was born on March 28, 1930 in Oakland, California. He went to Oakland High School and attended Stanford University, earning a BS degree in engineering and an MBA. From Stanford he went directly to the U.S. Air Force where he served at Wright Patterson Air Force base in the computer center. He held positions with Standard Computers and IBM.

He loved to sail, especially in San Francisco Bay and kept a membership in the St. Francis Yacht Club. He traveled extensively and wrote of his adventures in the CONNECT Newsletter. He loved good wine, good food and was passionate about opera and Shakespeare.

Joseph Hu, a young Chinese tenor who lived at the Otterson home when singing here, told a story recently about Bill’s ability to inspire and encourage. He had confessed that he felt totally unprepared for the Cascon role in Tosca he was here in San Diego to sing. “Soldier, let’s walk,” Bill said with his high voltage grin. By the time the two walk-talked around the block, Joseph’s courage had somehow been restored. “I came back knowing I could do it, and I did it well,” Hu said simply, tears pouring down his face.

If you knew Bill, you knew he had cancer. “When Bill developed cancer 20 years ago, it could have been a downer,” said Dr. John Mendelsohn, president of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas and former head of the UCSD Cancer Center. “But he made it a life-changing event and dedicated his efforts to the community of San Diego and the people he loved. San Diego will forever be indebted to him for what he built.”

Otterson is survived by Anne, his wife of 38 years, sons John and Eric and daughter Helen.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the William Otterson Memorial Fund at the San Diego Foundation or the UCSD Cancer Center.  


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