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Memorials: Berkeley Monthly Meeting

Kenneth Preston

Date of birth

April 21, 1931

Date of death

Jan. 21, 2021


Berkeley Monthly Meeting

Memorial minute

Kenneth A. Preston, 89, died peacefully at home in San Francisco on January 22, 2021 surrounded by family. Born Hans Albert Israel Pressburger on April 21, 1931 in Stuttgart, Germany, Ken was the only child of Joseph Pressburger and Trude Wertheimer Pressburger.  The family narrowly escaped the Holocaust, fleeing to the United States and arriving by boat at Ellis Island in April 1941. They settled in New York City and struggled to make ends meet. In 1945, they changed their last name from Pressburger to Preston. 

Ken attended public schools in the Bronx and earned his Bachelor of Science degree from New York University in 1950 after only two and a half years of study.

He was drafted into the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War in 1951 and received an honorable discharge two years later. In 1950, using restitution money from the German government, his parents started J.A. Preston Corporation, a company that sold rehabilitation equipment to doctors' offices and hospitals. Ken took over the business after his father died in 1961 and was president until he sold it in 1988. Under his leadership, J.A. Preston Corp grew from a small family business to an international sales and manufacturing company with partnerships in Canada, Japan, and Korea.  

Ken met his wife, Linda Rothchild, on a ferry to Fire Island in May of 1961. Ken, the romantic, always claimed it was love at first sight. Linda, the pragmatist, always maintained that he took the last open seat on the boat. They began dating and married the following year, soon moving to Greenwich Village in New York City where they raised their three children, Alan, Leslie, and Dean.  They spent their summers in Saltaire, Fire Island. Ken and Linda were married 47 years before Linda's death in 2009. 

After Ken sold the family business in 1988, he found a second career in teaching and consulting. He loved applying his success in business into teaching and mentoring his students at the NYU Stern School of Business. He nourished his passion for entrepreneurship by consulting with small business startups as a long-time volunteer with the Executive Volunteer Corps and the Small Business Administration. 

In 1969, Ken became an active member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and joined the Fifteenth Street Monthly Meeting in New York City. He was drawn to the Quakers by their commitment to pacifism, social concerns, strong advocacy for Jews in the Holocaust, and practice of silent worship.

Ken was a consummate New Yorker. He adored the opera, frequented the symphony and Broadway shows, and knew all the nooks and crannies of his beloved Greenwich Village and Washington Square Park.  He was a kind, fun-loving man, known for telling stories and cracking up at a good joke, especially when it was his own. And he always gave back, volunteering for decades on numerous nonprofit boards and donating generously to education, arts, housing, cancer research, and disability rights. 

In 2008, Ken and Linda moved to San Francisco to be closer to their children.  Ken began teaching at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business, but retired soon thereafter to care for Linda after she became ill.  In the decade that followed her death, he took comfort in spending time with family and attending the Berkeley Friends Meeting. 

Ken is predeceased by his wife Linda and daughter Leslie, and is survived by his sons, Alan and DeanPreston, and his grandchildren, Skye and Kira, children of Dean and Jenckyn Goosby, and Janak, child of Alan and Pramila Jayapal, and Hannah and Elizabeth, children of Alan Preston and Cecilia Kingman.