Mentor to SI Classmates & Silicon Valley Stars: Mother and Sister Start Mike Homer ’76 Scholarship

Mike Homer ’76 served as vice president at Netscape in the 1990s.

Irene and Sue Homer, the mother and sister of the late Mike Homer ‘76, have contributed $25,000 to establish an SI scholarship in his honor. The scholarship is for students from Mission Dolores Grammar School from which Mike graduated.

 Homer, a highly successful Silicon Valley executive and entrepreneur known for his straight-forward manner and quick wit, remained accessible, down-to-earth and close to his SI friends as his star rose, his sister said. “He wasn’t impressed with success the way some are,” she added. “He always supported education because it was so important to us.”

 Sue, a professor of Political Science at City College of San Francisco, explained that she and her brother were the first members of their immediate and extended family to graduate from college. “We both graduated from UC Berkeley. Education made a huge difference to us.”

 She attributed her brother’s success at parlaying his studies at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley into a successful Silicon Valley career to his intellectual gifts and his SI education. He held technical and executive positions at Apple, Go, EO and Palm. He helped take Netscape public and later worked for TiVo, Tellme Networks and Google, as well as starting his own businesses.

 “Mom was adamant that she wanted other young students like Mike to benefit from SI the way he did,” Sue said.

 Irene Homer, a resident of San Francisco’s Glen Park, said her late son combined academic talent with strong study habits. “Other parents asked me how I did it,” she said. “I didn’t. You never had to browbeat Mike or Sue to do their homework. They were self-motivated. I was lucky.”

 Mother and sister agreed that SI did more than polish and refine Mike’s academic talents. “He met so many guys at SI who remained lifelong friends,” Mrs. Homer said.

 One of them, Kurt Bruneman ’76, a lieutenant in the San Francisco Police Department, said Homer did more than excel as a student-athlete; he had a knack for helping others. “He was very bright,” Bruneman said, recalling a psychology class he took with him. “I struggled in that class. Mike would read a chapter once and then explain it to me.”

 Though their career paths were worlds apart, Bruneman and Homer remained close. Homer invited him and several other SI pals to his Atherton home to drive his collection of vintage cars in a kind of informal rally. The collection included a rare ’69 Camaro, a ’67 Corvette and a ’66 Mustang.

 “He lent me his Ferrari for three weeks and the Corvette for over a year,” Bruneman said, a trace of wonder in his voice. “When he heard I had atrial fibrillation, he called and offered to pay my medical expenses.”

 Bruneman added that Homer made a career out of his knack for explaining complex technical issues, working with the CEO of Apple and other Silicon Valley executives. Greg Suhr ’76, agrees.

 “Mike could explain really complicated ideas simply,” Suhr said. “He explained lots of things to me, and I’m the better for it. That talent served him well in his career.”

 Suhr said Homer shared his vacation home and traded affectionate barbs with his SI friends even after he became a Silicon Valley star. “I could see his business entourage wondering ‘Who are those guys?’ when we got together,” Suhr said. “Mike had as big a needle as anyone when sticking it to you, but he had the thickest skin of us all when receiving it.”

Suhr, who is captain of SFPD’s Bayview Station, said that Homer, though small, was a good athlete, excelling at baseball, intramural basketball, tennis and skiing. “A lot of our parents thought Homer was his first name because he was a small guy with glasses and looked like a Homer. But to us he was just ‘H’ or ‘Home’ or Mike. I remember him for his friendship and generosity. I miss the guy big time.”

Suhr, Bruneman and other SI friends visited him regularly during his last illness. Homer died in his Atherton home Feb. 1, 2009, from a rare neurodegenerative disorder known as as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). He was 50. 

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