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Obituaries

R. Kommerstad, 75; Advised Investors

July 15, 2002|JON THURBER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Robert M. Kommerstad, founder of the Pasadena-based investment firm Provident Investment Counsel Inc. and a philanthropist who gave substantially to help college and high school students study finance, has died. He was 75.

In failing health for the last six months, Kommerstad died Thursday of heart failure at his home in the San Gabriel Valley community of Bradbury.

A longtime leader of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, Kommerstad was himself a self-made man.

He grew up in Minneapolis, the son of the owner of a dairy delivery business. His mother worked as a cook. When Kommerstad was 10, his father died of colon cancer. His older brother quit high school to help his mother support the family.

But Kommerstad stayed in school, earning varsity letters in football, basketball and baseball at South High in Minneapolis. He became the first member of his family to go to college, earning an undergraduate degree at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul.

After serving in the Air Force, Kommerstad earned his law degree at the University of Minnesota. He moved to California in 1955 to find his fortune.

In 1963, Kommerstad and a partner opened Provident Investment Counsel. His income that year was $12,000. The company showed steady growth over the next three decades, and by the early 1990s Provident's clients had $4.5 billion invested with the firm.

Kommerstad's role in Big Brothers started three decades ago. He volunteered his time and eventually mentored three boys. He also served on the board of directors of Big Brothers of Greater Los Angeles.

In the 1990s, he served as chairman of the national board of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America. Associates said his disciplined management style helped tighten the organization's business practices and focus. In his first three years as chairman, the group grew from serving 138,000 children to 221,000 across the country.

A member of the board of trustees at the University of Minnesota law school, Kommerstad created its Center for Business Law and Entrepreneurship by donating $1 million in 1999.

In the mid-1980s, Provident donated $250,000 each to business classes at USC and UCLA so students could learn how to manage portfolios.

In 1993, when Kommerstad returned to South High in Minneapolis for its 100th anniversary, he talked to school officials about setting up a similar program there. Within months, Kommerstad and school officials had established guidelines for the program, which he funded with a personal donation of $100,000.

In addition to his role at Provident, Kommerstad was a founder and served on the board of directors of Mellon First Business Bank in Los Angeles and was on several other corporate boards.

He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Lila; and a daughter, Carol of Vancouver, Canada.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in Kommerstad's name be made to Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Los Angeles.

A memorial reception will be held Aug. 17 at the Annandale Country Club in Pasadena.

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