OAKLAND, Calif. -- A trailblazer in health care and a giant in community building, Bernard Tyson, the chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente died in his sleep early Sunday morning at the age of 60. He leaves behind a wife and three sons.
Tyson's death is especially surprising, because the CEO appeared at multiple events this past week, even speaking at Afrotech in Oakland on Saturday.
"It's a loss to not only us personally, all of our friends, our entire community, and to the nation," said Chuck Collins, the CEO of YMCA San Francisco, and a longtime personal friend of Tyson. "Bernard Tyson was a person who really impacted how we think about health care, so the loss is tremendous, but I also think that the legacy is even more tremendous."
"Our future is better because of Bernard Tyson," said Collins.
Tyson spent more than 30 years at Kaiser and helped build the company into the nation's largest non-profit healthcare provider. He was named CEO in 2013.
This year, Kaiser sponsored and named the area around San Francisco's newly built Chase Center - "Thrive City" - a nod to Kaiser's slogan.
Tyson also announced Kaiser's plans to build a new $900 million headquarters building in Oakland.
"My heart is broken," said Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who spoke to ABC7 by phone. She represents much of Alameda County. "We mourn his death today but we also must remember the legacy that he has left for so many young people, especially so many of our young African American men, our children of color, our, you know, people who have been marginalized and left out of the whole economic and health care fabric of our country. Bernard was their champion."
"I'm going to miss him deeply," said Charley Hames Jr., Senior Pastor of Beebe Memorial Cathedral in Oakland. He met Tyson more than a decade ago and says the busy CEO was always available for a call or text. "He was a lover of gospel music. Gentle spirit, warm, compassionate, and generous. And he was a brother and a friend."
Founder of Salesforce, Marc Benioff, tweeted a photo of himself with Tyson and wrote: "A light unto this world has gone out. Bernard Tyson our loving friend & board member has passed away. He always did so much for others & the world. One of the world's greatest CEO's. I will always remember him with LOVE in my heart. My prayers are with his family for peace."
Governor Newsom expressed his sadness in a statement which said in part, "Jennifer and I are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of health care pioneer and our dear friend Bernard Tyson. Bernard's vision and influence made an impact at home and abroad, and he led with excellence on behalf of millions of Kaiser patients and thousands of employees."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also put out a statement after Tyson's death: "As one of our nation's most prominent African American CEOs and health care leaders, Bernard blazed a trail for countless other health care advocates and leaders of color to bring their vision, values, and expertise to improving the health and well-being of our communities."
Warriors' Stephen Curry tweeted: "RIP Bernard. Thank you and your family for everything you stood for!"
Kaiser board member, Edward Pei said "Bernard was an exceptional colleague, a passionate leader, and an honorable man. We will greatly miss him."
Kaiser's board of directors has named Gregory Adams, Executive Vice President, and Group President, as interim Chairman and CEO.
The family has asked people who want to pay tribute to Tyson to donate to a The Bernard J. Tyson Fund for Equitable Health and Well-Being at the American Heart Association. Information on the fund can be found at this link.
Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson dies at 60
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