Greg Hind, a prominent San Luis Obispo businessman, philanthropist, environmentalist and innovator of sports apparel, died Wednesday at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center after a short illness. He was 66.
A gifted athlete who was named Athlete of the Year in 1965 at Santa Clara Valley High School and three-time All-American in water polo at San Jose State, Hind subsequently was a gold medalist in the sport at the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada.
Art Lambert was his coach during those years. He remembers a young man who came from “an extremely successful family.” His father, Harry, was an inventor who held numerous patents, not the least being the developer of contact lens solution.
“Greg wanted to be a wrestler, but I talked him into water polo; he had a real savvy for the game,” Lambert said Thursday in a phone interview from his home in Sandpoint, Idaho. “He had great gamesmanship, a real feel for the game and played on the national team for four years. Helluva man, helluva player, someone I respected a lot.”
Hind had an eardrum broken while playing in the Pan Am Games. The injury led him to develop protective earflaps on water polo caps, which is now an industry standard.
He and his wife, Jane, later went on to start GH Sports, a company that specializes in apparel and accessories for running, cycling and swimming.
Before that enterprise, he virtually walked away from a sports apparel manufacturing company that had 500 employees and manufacturing operations in three states, according to his attorney of 20 years, Superior Court Judge Martin Tangeman.
“I was honored to be his friend; he was an inspiration who lived life to the fullest, joyously and completely. But what was most important to me,” Tangeman added, “was his devotion to family. He took his young family to France for two years as a key bonding opportunity and left a successful business. He was one of the top five employers in the county for a substantial period of time.”
In addition to successfully founding various businesses, Hind gave back to the community through the arts, helping shepherd the creation and oversight of the Performing Arts Center at Cal Poly and a dozen other arts-driven associations and advisory boards.
Hind told The Tribune last year that there was no other place in which he would rather live and pursue business interests than San Luis Obispo.
“There is the business opportunity, and then there’s quality of life and family. This area represented everything that was important to living and being part of an exceptional community. You fight to stay here,” he said.
Hind’s love of the community was recognized when he was named the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year in 2010.
Attorney Jim Maguire recalled that Greg and Jane Hind were two of the first people he and wife, Christine, met when they moved to San Luis Obispo in 1978.
Recently, Hind bought 360 acres of Pozo oaklands that the Salinas River runs through. Giving Maguire, a Pozo neighbor, a tour of the property, Hind told his longtime friend, “I bought this so it can stay like this forever.”
“He was a horseman — an outdoorsman — and this was a special place for him,” Maguire said. “His goal was to build a simple cabin on the property; Jane’s going to build that now.”
The Hind Foundation gave seed money to Kiwanis bandstands in Atascadero, a library in Cambria and any number of conservation and community-building efforts.
Kara Blakeslee of Friends of Wild Cherry Canyon, a land-preservation effort south of San Luis Obispo, said Hind was “phenomenal” in his efforts to preserve the coastal expanse of about 2,500 acres, initially donating $150,000 in seed money “that allowed us to raise millions later,” she explained. He later added $180,000 as a matching grant to cover state-
mandated infrastructure costs on the property that will be annexed to Montaña de Oro State Park if future fundraising efforts are successful.
“He was always respectful and honest about projects,” Blakeslee said. “I’m just heartbroken.”
Mary Webb, vice president of Greenspace — The Cambria Land Trust, echoed Blakeslee’s sentiments.
“I am shocked and so sad to hear this. We all owe so much to Greg Hind and the Hind family for so many contributions to civil society, the arts, cultural heritage sites, environmental organizations and furthering science in so many areas.”
“Not only was Greg a philanthropist, but he was the sort of guy one could just hang out with and talk about steelhead trout and native plants,” said Richard Hawley, executive director of Greenspace. “A salt-of-the-earth human being with great insight into what was important in building strong and vibrant communities.”
In addition to grants to complete the Cambria library, the Hind Foundation also provided grants toward an access road to Harmony Headlands State Park, to restore the fog signal building at Piedras Blancas Light Station, and toward restoring the Greenspace Chinese Temple and the Guthrie-Bianchini House (now called the Cambria Historical Museum).
Nick Franco, superintendent of the San Luis Obispo Coast District of State Parks, said Hind “has been such a big supporter of many park activities throughout the years. And he was such a great guy. What a loss to us all.”
Hind was preceded in death by his parents, Harry W. Hind and Diana V. Hind. He is survived by his wife, Jane; daughters Meegan Hind and Kirsten Hind, father-in-law Daniel Hruby and mother-in-law Gerry Hruby, all of San Luis Obispo County; sister Leslie Hind Daniels and her husband, Dr. Troy Daniels, of San Francisco; and sister-in-law Susan Waxman and her husband, Richard Waxman, of Sonoma.
No public memorial is planned.