Called “the no-nonsense banker who built Paul Allen's biotech portfolio into a $500 million machine” in a Seattle Times article, Ruth Kunath had a long, successful career as an investor in biotech and was an instrumental force behind building Seattle’s biotech industry. Ruth Kunath, 66, passed away in her home in Seattle, WA on Tuesday, November 13th.
Ruth joined Vulcan in 1992 as one of its first five employees. She was described as having an “unusual profile” given she was a conservative financial analyst by training, who developed her expertise in biotech as a fund manager for Seafirst Bank. Through focus and patience her investment success at Vulcan helped drive the biotech industry forward with a portfolio of high-profile companies including Dendreon, Seattle Genetics, ZymoGenetics, Rosetta Inpharmatics and Pathogenesis.
Ruth was lead investor for numerous life science start-ups, emphasizing unique technologies and revolutionary new approaches to drug, vaccine, or immunotherapeutic development and gene expression software. Her expansive network included many of the world's leading scientists, corporate management, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists. She served in multiple Board positions and was Funding Committee Member of Women in Bio for the Seattle Metro Chapter.
Ruth’s midwestern sensibility was the anchor of her success both in her professional and personal life. Family, friends and gardening were Ruth’s greatest passions. Her enthusiasm was evident in everything she did. She created well-loved baby blankets for family and was a gifted gardener with an eye for beauty. Friends and family remember Ruth as dedicated, energetic, and driven – whether in her pursuit of business ventures, in everyday adventures like genealogy and fly fishing, or simply spending time with those she loved. Her son Spencer affectionally calls her a “renegade” who didn’t push you to go faster in the race, but rather pulled you forward with love. She was a doer who turned dreams into reality.
Born March 5, 1952 in Mexico, Missouri, Ruth graduated from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. She is preceded in death by her sister Mary H. Barnes, her mother Elma Lee Hawthorne Barnes, and her father Lawrence M. Barnes. Ruth is survived by her son Spencer H. B. Kunath of Seattle, Washington; her brother Lawrence and wife Frances Barnes of Richmond, VA, her step daughter Elizabeth Robertson, husband Wyndham, and children Tolan, Thomas Rolfe, and Henry of Oakton, VA. Her stepson Christopher Kunath, wife Jeanna, and children William and Joshua of Kirkland, WA.
A funeral service, open to all, celebrating Ruth’s life will be held at the United Methodist Church, 122 E. Promenade, Mexico
on Sunday January 13th at 3pm.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the L. B. Hawthorne Scholarship, in care of Mexico Public Schools, 2101 Lakeview Road, Mexico, Missouri, 65265. This scholarship was created for Mexico High School students in honor of Ruth’s grandfather, Lee Byrnes Hawthorne, who was Superintendent of Mexico Public Schools for nearly 40 years.