Scientist, athlete, sailor, skier -- and he can really boogie, too

June 03, 1998|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Friends say C. D. "Dan" Mote Jr. is a renaissance man of sorts: scientist, avid skier, tremendous sailor, great dancer, bad poet, heck of an office Santa Claus.

And all of it carried out at a speed-dial tempo.

"He's an exceptional man, a world-class scholar," said Nadine Tang, co-chairwoman of the University of California at Berkeley's ambitious $1.1 billion fund-raising effort. "But he has a great sense of fun."

Mote is fearless, whether navigating his boat through a typhoon off Tonga several years ago, or coaching a fellow skier to go faster by yelling his motto: "It's best if you don't think about it."

He's also a sweet-talker on top of his game.

Tang, a former graduate student and adjunct faculty member, recalls being recruited last year to help Mote arrange a small dinner party. In Hong Kong. For the Berkeley chancellor and his guests -- the leaders of Hong Kong.

"We left on a Monday, arrived Tuesday night, met with the caterers Wednesday, had dinner that night, flew back Thursday," pTC Tang said. "Two hours later, we're at a basketball game.

"I'm thinking, 'I do this on occasion, he does this all the time,' " she said, laughing.

Dr. Robert Johnson, a professor of orthopedics at the University of Vermont, praises Mote for using his expertise in mechanical engineering to make skiing safer.

"He's always working to make [ski] bindings better, testing existing equipment, reviewing standards, looking at the biomechanics," Johnson said.

The two men met more than 20 years ago in Montreal as members of the International Society for Skiing Safety and formed a friendship that is renewed each year, "usually on a glacier somewhere," Johnson said.

Since 1985, they have edited seven books on ski safety.

"He's a very serious guy, a no-nonsense guy, but he's not a grouchy old curmudgeon," Johnson said.

In fact, friends note, he can be the life of the party: at Christmas in a white beard, and at the annual roast for retiring trustees, where he slips into a blond wig and short skirt before launching into imitations.

"He is a man for all seasons," said Harry L. Hathaway, vice chairman of the university's fund-raising foundation who graduated with Mote in 1959. "He is a brilliant scientist. He can raise money with the best of them."

A few more things his new employees might want to note. He likes football. He prefers to bike to work but will drive a car, the older, it seems, the better. After years on the banquet circuit, he's not particularly fond of salmon, but wouldn't pass up a steamed crab.

Oh, and about that dancing? "He boogies," said Tang.

Pub Date: 6/03/98

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