Robert S. “Bob” Grant
Noted Santa Barbara architect and sailor Robert S. “Bob” Grant passed away comfortably on Thursday, April 13 2017. Known for his integrity, pragmatism, gentle, self-deprecating sense of humor, and cheshire cat-smile, Bob was a beloved native Santa Barbaran who touched countless lives.
Bob was born in Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital on January 26, 1925 to Ulysses S. Grant, a civil engineer and surveyor, and Mary (neé Leslie) Grant, who worked in the planning department. Bob joined older brother M. Leslie “Les” Grant in the family’s home on Pueblo St. across from the hospital.
The boys attended Garfield Elementary and Santa Barbara Junior High School and lived at the family’s cabin at Painted Cave during the summers when they weren’t working with their father.
“In junior high school, if the 1928 Buick pickup was in the driveway, I knew I’d be going out to carry the (surveyor’s) rod with dad,” Bob said.
Bob graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1943 where he participated in R.O.T.C., which shuttled him around the country to five different colleges and universities after high school. During a year at the then College of the Pacific in Stockton, he played a season of football under famed coach Amos Alonzo Stagg as a third-string tight end after his roommate encouraged him to try out for the team.
Bob’s R.O.T.C. service subsequently earned him the rank of Midshipman in the U.S. Navy and an assignment as a deck officer on the destroyer U.S.S. Henry Hubbard at the conclusion of WWII. He decamped to Los Angeles with his first wife Dorothy (neé Gross) to enter the University of Southern California’s School of Architecture.
His time there was interrupted by his being recalled to the Navy and promoted to Lieutenant J.G. to serve as a gunnery officer on the destroyer U.S.S. Nicholas. The couple relocated to Hawaii during the war where their son Steven was born.
After being honorably discharged, Bob returned to USC, where his design instructor skipped him ahead a year allowing him to graduate on time in 1954 while earning the program’s Alpha Rho Chi medal awarded for “leadership, service and professional promise” and membership in the architectural honor society Tau Sigma Delta.
Bob was hired before he graduated by the internationally-renowned firm Welton Becket and Associates, which tapped him to serve as a project architect during the construction of the Ford Motor Company’s general offices. During his time there, Bob and Dorothy’s daughter Karen came along.
After deciding he wanted to live in a smaller town, he strongly considered moving back to Hawaii, but as he said with self-deprecating humor, “I didn’t see any economic opportunity there.”
But Santa Barbara beckoned, and Bob was lured back to town by the local firm Howell and Arendt Architects, where he had worked as an office boy during high school. Not long after he became a partner for what is now known as Arendt, Mosher, Grant Architects. Daughter Julia rounded out the family in 1957.
The next five decades would be marked by a name change to Grant, Pederson, Phillips Architects and a prodigious output of primarily commercial and institutional projects. Bob also served as Campus Architect at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
The “Delco Building” (recently refreshed and presently occupied by Flir Systems) is one entry in a notable portfolio that includes the 1978 wing of UCSB’s Davidson Library,, the original U-Cen, Santa Barbara City College’s Interdisciplinary Center, the Santa Barbara YMCA, La Colina Jr. High School, most of Goleta’s elementary schools, Vieja Valley School, portions of Laguna Blanca School, Banyan Elementary in Newbury Park, and many more.
Known for detailed, comprehensive plan sets, he also designed the City of Santa Barbara’s Community Development Building where architects have presented their own work for review since 1988.
Although he enjoyed designing living spaces, he ultimately moved away from residential work because, as he said, “I ended up being a marriage counselor to the clients!” He designed two of his own homes; the first received an award by Better Home Magazine in 1959. The second received a citation from the Santa Barbara Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1974.
He and Dorothy were divorced in 1964 and he married his second wife Dianne (neé Mostue) in November of 1965. Thirteen years later, at the age of 53, he became a father once again to son Robert L. Grant. Bob and Dianne were married for 45 years, and together they traveled extensively in Europe and the Americas.
His experiences in the Navy led to a lifelong passion for sailing, and he spent countless days on the water. Although he found joy in cruising and daysailing, Bob was an insatiable racer, contending all the way up to his retirement from racing at the age of 88. Every year featured a packed schedule of local and regional inshore races, and many also featured an offshore passage or two, including multiple races from Southern California to Mexico.
In 1970, Bob served as watch captain on the overall winner of the Los Angeles-Tahiti Race. As a skipper he scored a class win and third overall out of 60 boats in the 1983 Trans-Pacific Yacht Race from Los Angeles-Honolulu. One of his crewmembers of 20-somethings who later went on to success in subsequent editions of the race said, “It was great; still my favorite TransPac. He put complete trust in a bunch of us ‘kids’ to sail the boat at all times.”
His name graces numerous trophies at his beloved Santa Barbara Yacht Club — a total of 47 times over six decades, including wins for Outstanding Contribution to Yachting, Outstanding Contribution to Junior Sailing, Sportsman of the Year and Skipper of the Year. He also served on the club’s board of directors for two stints during two separate decades.
Bob also had a lifelong love of music, and he served on the Community Arts Music Association’s Board of Directors. He recalled that as a kid, his brother Les, a talented pianist, would practice on Saturday mornings and all the windows in the neighborhood would open. “When I started playing my cornet, they would all slam shut!”
He is preceded in death by his father Ulysses, mother Mary, and brother Les, and he is survived by his children Steven D. Grant, Karen L. Grant, Julia L. Braeger and Robert L. Grant and grandchildren Drew McPherson and Dana Grant.
A celebration of life will be held at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club next Wednesday, May 10, at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers the family is asking for donations in his memory to be made to the redevelopment of the UC Santa Barbara sailing facility at the harbor, which serves both students and the general public and is at the end of its lifespan.
Checks should be made payable to the UCSB Foundation with “UCSB Sailing in memory of Bob Grant — sailing facility redevelopment” written in the memo line of the check and mailed to: Student Affairs Grants and Development, UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5015. Online memorial gifts may also be made at sa.ucsb.edu/giving/recsailing with “UCSB Sailing in memory of Bob Grant — sailing facility redevelopment” in the comments section.