July 7, 1951 – November 16, 2021
John Durham, a fundamental figure in the Northern California digital advertising community and beloved University of San Francisco marketing professor for a quarter of a century, died Tuesday, November 16 at Sutter Health in San Francisco after a long illness. He was 70 years old.
John was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on July 7, 1951, to John Edward Durham and Ruth Carleen Powers Durham (Clemmer). The start of his family’s life was forever changed by the tragic and untimely death of his father in a construction accident when John was just 5 years old. John attended Westside High School in Memphis and was a member of both the French club and the theater society, offering early indications of the life of culture and travel he would pursue later. He then attended Georgetown College (Kentucky) where he was a proud and committed member of Lambda Chi Alpha. He graduated in 1973 and reportedly also studied political marketing at the University of Kentucky.
John is survived by his daughter Meredith Durham of New Orleans; his son John Edward Durham III (“Tripp”); his grandson Cameron Charles Durham; Brother David “Mark” Durham of Plant City, Florida; half-sisters Laura “Kay” Clemmer of Arlington, Tennessee and Kimberly Suzanne Clemmer Gallegos of Key West, Florida. He was predeceased by his father in 1956; his mother in 1996; and her half-brother Kelly Scott Clemmer in 2013.
One of John’s first roles in the media was as General Sales Manager for WZXR Radio in Memphis. From there he embarked on sports and events marketing in the Southeast before moving to San Francisco in 1992, where he found his life’s work in both academia and the booming world of digital advertising. John was recruited to lead advertising sales for MapQuest in 1995 before becoming Director of Revenue for Winstar Interactive Media – one of the first digital representation companies – from 1997 to 2003. He was President of Pericles Consulting, a digital marketing policy in 2003-2004. John worked on the ad agency side as executive vice president of business development for Carat Fusion / Freestyle before returning to publishing as president of Jumpstart Automotive where he successfully led the sales of the l company in Hachette Filipacchi. In 2007, he co-founded Catalyst S + F, a revolutionary marketing agency that he continued to lead after his death.
Among other accolades, John received the Industry Achievement Award, a lifetime honor from ad: tech, a major industry conference and community. He was founder and chairman of the San Francisco Bay Area Interactive Group (SFBIG) and also a founding member of the Seller Forum (formerly Seller Summit), which brought together the best leaders in digital media sales.
John started at the University of San Francisco in January 1994, teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses in marketing, consumer behavior, and management. He was a member of the USF School of Management’s Circle of Deans and developed the School of Management’s comprehensive marketing plan and remained a committed and supportive member of the USF community until his death. He has helped launch and support the careers of hundreds of his students, many of whom have been interns at Catalyst S + F and its other companies.
John’s passions included great wine and champagne (he was a sophisticated collector, with a particular passion for the Krug house), the Arsenal Football Club (UK), international and domestic travel, sports teams from the Bay Area and the music of Annie Lennox. He has maintained a network of thousands of colleagues and friends through his curated collection of âDurhamismsâ – stimulating and inspiring ideas shared daily via Facebook, Twitter and email.
After a private cremation, a celebration of John’s life is slated for early 2022 in the San Francisco Bay Area. For more information on this gathering, please visit https://sfbig.org/about_us/durham. Donations can be made in John’s name at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Special thanks go to Dr Geoffrey Quinn and Dr Michael Verhille for their years of caring for John and to Dr Daniel Dutcher for the special care in his last days. And of course, to the many nurses and staff who were always there.
One sentiment John conveyed to readers of his Durhamisms in 2015 is that of author Erma Bombeck: say, ‘I have used all you have given me.’ “
Published by San Francisco Chronicle December 3-5, 2021.