Bruce Varner

In Memoriam: Bruce Varner, UC Regent, Philanthropist, and Prominent Riverside Attorney

After leading a Hall of Fame life, community leader, and beloved husband, father and Papa, Bruce Doyle Varner, passed away peacefully on May 8, 2021 surrounded by family in the comfort of his home.

Bruce was born in Los Angeles in 1936 and moved to San Luis Obispo in 1944 where he spent his youth in the quiet and idyllic Central Coast town. Bruce’s parents, Ann and Doyle, emphasized family values, activities, and sports. Along with his two brothers, Ron and Mike, Bruce enjoyed the youthful joys of a small town, playing various sports, building and restoring cars, joining and creating clubs and other activities, including getting into a little mischievous trouble. After a standout high school football career, Stanford University, among others, offered Bruce a scholarship to play football, but Bruce opted to stay close to home and attend UC Santa Barbara, beginning his lifelong dedication to the UC system. While there, Bruce continued to excel in football and baseball. Following his college career, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Colts, and Chicago Bears contacted Bruce to play professional football upon his graduation. At the behest of one of his college professors, who believed Bruce showed legal acumen, however, Bruce took the Law School Aptitude Test equivalent and earned a perfect score. After a brief tour of active duty with the U.S. Army at Fort Benning, Bruce decided to attend law school and pursue a legal career. Bruce attended UC Hastings Law School, became Editor in Chief of the Law Review, graduated Order of the Coif and passed the California Bar Examination in 1962. Bruce then moved to the Inland Empire in 1964 to join a prominent law firm and begin his illustrious legal career. While living in San Bernardino, Bruce met his beloved wife, Nancy at one of his favorite local establishments and the two married in 1975 at the Mission Inn Chapel in Riverside, California.

Bruce was one of the leading corporate and business transactional attorneys in Southern California and throughout the United States. His dedication, work ethic and his love of solving problems made him a key player in the business world. His clients, friends, and family described Bruce using words like integrity, intelligence, and intensity. One of Bruce’s proudest business achievements included the 1986 proxy battle over control of Stater Bros. Markets. As a company director of the supermarket chain, Bruce led the battle, alongside late company president, Jack H. Brown, to win majority control of Stater Bros. and establish it as one of the premier supermarket chains in Southern California. In 2005, Bruce spearheaded the conversion of a portion of Norton Air Force Base into the Stater Bros. corporate headquarters, warehouse, and distribution center.

In 1997, Bruce founded Varner & Brandt, the leading business law firm in the Inland Empire. With Bruce at the helm, the law firm established foundations based on integrity, excellence, and relationships with clients and the community at-large. Bruce often emphasized that he was in the business of problem solving, stating, “I am a problem solver. Instead of telling clients they can’t do something, I like to help them figure out how they can.” As a direct result of Bruce’s influence, the law firm continues to pride itself on these core values and will continue to do so as a living legacy to its founder.

As a lifelong advocate for higher education, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated Bruce to serve on the UC Board of Regents in 2006. Bruce was elected Vice Chair of the Board of Regents in 2011 and went on to serve as Chair from 2013 to 2015. He also served on many of the board’s committees, including the Committee on Compensation, Committee on Governance, Committee on Finance, and the Search Committee which was responsible for the hiring of UC President Janet Napolitano.

Long before his appointment to the Board of Regents, Bruce dedicated much of his life in devotion to his community and higher education. He and his wife, Nancy, contributed much of their time, money, and energy to numerous local organizations, charities, and the many nonprofit boards on which they served, including, to name a few: Loma Linda Children’s Hospital, Cal State San Bernardino, Assistance League of San Bernardino, the Boys & Girls Club of San Bernardino, the San Bernardino Sheriffs, and the National Orange Show; a legacy he has passed on to his family.

When not practicing law and serving his clients and community, Bruce devoted his time and endless energy to his family and many friends. He emphasized and treasured his family and loved attending his children’s and grandchildren’s various activities including sporting events, shows, birthdays, and celebrations all over Southern California. He was often very emotional seeing his heirs in their efforts, accomplishments, and triumphs in those activities. Bruce especially relished holding court on his back porch, enjoying the amazing view, smoking a cigar, drinking a scotch, and sharing stories, while listening to music with his friends and family. Bruce never failed to light up a room with his presence, or to make people laugh with a well-crafted limerick or practical joke. He loved to travel, visiting Montana to ski, embarking on golf trips to St. Andrews, watching the Masters in Augusta, or touring New Zealand with dear friends where he was recently honored by a Maori tribe.

Bruce was predeceased by his beloved wife, Nancy, and survived by his brother Ron, sons Kevin, Sean, Brett, and daughter Nicole; grandchildren Zoey, Peyton, Marcus, Devin, Ancel, Finley, Fiona and Bruce, daughters-in-law, Tracy and Kristin, son-in-law Brian and his beloved dog Monty who will miss licking Bruce’s bowls of ice cream.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family asks that you please donate to one of Bruce’s most important causes:

Cal State San Bernardino Doyle A. and Ann Varner Memorial Scholarship Endowment (Athletics), UC Riverside Bruce D. and Nancy B. Varner Presidential Endowed Chair in Cancer Research, Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital Foundation and/or Redlands Community Hospital Foundation.