Background[edit | edit source]
- Olympian, American Record Holder with Stanford University.
- Passed in 2020
Insights[edit | edit source]
- The Glass Slipper Inn is just half an hour away from the Santa Clara Swim Club, and only five minutes from Stanford University.
In the last few months of Brian Job’s life, though, it might as well have been an eternity.
In the early 1970s, Job was a rising star and two-time Olympian who smashed records for both his swim club and his alma mater. But in the half-century since then, the former champion battled mental illness and addiction, drifting in and out of the court system. By 2013, he was living on the streets of Palo Alto.
On Aug. 14, Job was found dead in his motel room. He was 67.
Brian Job had been renting a room in the Glass Slipper Inn in Palo Alto when he was found dead Aug. 14. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group) “He could be very sweet and loving, but he had a temper, too,” remembers Brenda Job, his older sister. “You didn’t know which Brian you were going to get.”
From a young age, his family says, Job was brilliant but hyperactive. He wired the house with an intercom when he was 10; at dinners, he would stand with one leg on his chair because his mother said he had to have one part of his body on the chair at all times.
“When he was in eighth grade, his teacher said he was terrible and never sat still,” his sister, Brenda, said. “The teacher said, ‘I hope he makes it big in swimming because I refuse to believe his test scores.’ He got the highest score in the class, and our mother asked, ‘If he got the highest score in the class, who did he cheat off of?’”
As a teen, he was able to channel that restless energy into swimming. He was just 16 when he won a bronze medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics. Two years later, he blew past the world record in his signature event, the 200-meter breaststroke, clocking in 2 seconds below the previous mark. In his freshman season at Stanford University, he set 10 U.S. records in two weeks.
Job graduated from Stanford in 1973 before heading east for Harvard Business School. Back in Silicon Valley, he founded the tech startups Via Video and Network Picture Systems.
But by the late 1980s, he was beginning to succumb to the mental illness that would haunt him for the rest of his life. When he stayed with Brenda and her husband in 1985, she remembers, he would sleep for three days and then stay awake for the next three.
“It was manic kind of stuff, but we always said, ‘Oh, that’s just Brian,’” Brenda said.
After a string of arrests for petty crimes, Job was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, but he resisted getting treatment.
“He never thought he had a problem,” said Brenda. “He would say that him taking medication was like God taking medication to make him a human.”
And by the mid-2000s, struggling with mental illness and various addictions, Job had landed on the streets of Palo Alto, where he called himself an “outdoor citizen.”
In 2016, he was arrested for hitting a disabled homeless man over the head with a metal flashlight. Charged with a felony, he was found unfit to stand trial and wound up in Atascadero State Hospital, where he was able to receive treatment for his mental illnesses and colon and prostate cancer.
From his family’s perspective, it was the best place he could be.
“When he was incarcerated he was safe, and he was taking medication for his mental problems,” said his younger sister, Lisa Uzzell. “They took good care of him because he couldn’t take care of himself.”
Job, however, thought differently. After his time in Atascadero, he remained unfit to stand trial. Once an evaluation by a forensic psychiatrist found that he was still a danger to others, the Santa Clara County public guardian filed a petition to establish a Murphy conservatorship, which would have kept him receiving care in a psychiatric facility. But Job, convinced that the medication wasn’t working, exercised his legal right to a jury trial to fight the order.
In May, Brenda, took the emotionally grueling task of testifying against him, looking to do anything she could to keep her brother off the street.
“I spoke to him before the trial — I said ‘I love you’ and gave him a hug,” she said. “And he told me, ‘I’m going to be out of here tonight.’”
Job used to live on the streets in Palo Alto before he was admitted to the state’s psychiatric hospital after assaulting a man in a wheelchair. (LiPo Ching/Bay Area News Group Archive) In order to establish a Murphy conservatorship, a jury needs to vote unanimously in favor. That day, an 11-1 vote for the conservatorship resulted in a mistrial. A few days later, after a second trial resulted in a 10-2 vote, Job was released. He used inheritance money from his parents to move into the Glass Slipper Inn.
By all accounts, over the last few months of his life, Job quickly deteriorated. Anil Kumar, the manager of the inn, described him as happy and nice, but he said that he interacted rarely with other residents. When he would go across the street to eat lunch with a friend, he would return with bottles of alcohol.
When the housekeeping staff would change his sheets, Kumar says, they often found blood.
“I used to ask him if everything was okay,” he said. “He would say, ‘Yes, sometimes it happens.’ He doesn’t want to disclose what, and that was fine. That’s his personal matter.”
On Aug. 14, after a few days of not seeing Job emerge from his room, Kumar opened the door and found Job lying on the floor, looking like he had been there for some time.
Related Articles From Olympics to the streets: Medalist homeless in California The Santa Clara coroner’s office has not yet determined the cause of his death, although Job’s sisters suspect it was alcohol-related. In the days since, they question why Job was allowed to go free. “How could you say someone who mashed the head of someone who’s wheelchair-bound is fit to be on the street?” Brenda said. “We were all horrified. We were so pleased that he was going to be conserved.”
“People off the street should not be the judge,” she added. “It should be people who understand mental illness. I saw a lot of young people that were enamored by his Olympic status. He’s an Olympian, they thought. We have to let him go.”