In Memoriam: Greg Pabst

Greg Pabst, Founding Director and Instructor of Advertising at the University of San Francisco (USF), died peacefully in his sleep on January 16 after a long struggle with frontotemporal dementia. He was at USF for 25 years, retiring in 2016.

He is survived by Kathleen, his wife of 56 years, children John (Nicole), Mark, Kate (Jonathan) and grandson Adrian. Greg was born in St. Paul, MN, raised in Phoenix, AZ, and dearly loved his adopted hometown of San Francisco.

With a garrulous spirit, Greg was a lifelong communicator. He worked in radio, public relations, advertising, and media marketing. This career path culminated in his founding the Advertising program at University of San Francisco in 2009. During his 17 years as a professor, he mentored hundreds of students and gave many their first opportunities in the advertising industry. He had special connections to the American Advertising Federation's work supporting underrepresented groups in the industry and the National Student Advertising Competition.

As a 1965 alum of Brophy Prep in Phoenix, Greg's time at USF was a return to an association with the Jesuits, who he credited with his desire to question everything and the ability to defend both sides of any argument.

Greg loved walking, autodidactic inquiry and telling stories, avocations which led to a long relationship as a volunteer with San Francisco City Guides. He led tours of North Beach, Gold Rush City, the Haight and the Excelsior. He would be seen leading groups on foot, always stopping where there was an option of standing either in sun or in shade to elucidate and answer questions about history and the built environment.

He will be remembered for his sense of humor, relational nature and disdain for the "f word".  He instilled in those around him good humor and the obligation to "take care of those who take care of you."

He came to San Francisco for a weeklong visit during the "Summer of Love" and stayed for a lifetime. In spite of this, he was not exactly a hippie. To paraphrase Merle Haggard, he wore leather boots as manly footwear. At the same time he had a seething hatred of Ronald Reagan, and he took great pride in having campaigned against Barry Goldwater in 1964.

The eldest of five brothers and four sisters, Greg learned how to lead the band. Though they didn’t get together often, the Pabsts always showed up for a good time. Good times included making 8mm movies, practical jokes, impractical jokes, and drinking beer.

Greg slowly slipped away from family and friends as his dementia progressed, but he kept his positive attitude and sense of humor. His eyebrows would communicate deeply, and his hands would flutter meaningfully. His love of learning and his inspiration to others could not be snuffed out.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the American Advertising Federation scholarship fund or City Guides of San Francisco.