Dean C. Gordanier Jr. was an attorney who heard the music in the minutiae of the tax code. “He found a rhythm, reason and logic in the tax laws; when he ran into things that were not logical, it was like hitting a wrong chord, it made him sit up and listen and wonder,” said William B. Asher, a managing partner of the Boston law firm of Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault. Dean Gordanier, 55, died Feb. 25 of GIST at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
As a partner in Testa, Gordanier did innovative work on tax legislation, particularly as it pertained to private equity and venture capital. He was the author of “Structuring Securities Partnerships for Foreign and Tax-Exempt Partners” published in the Journal of Partnership Taxation in 1990, and an article on the adequate protection of secured creditors under the bankruptcy code published by the American Bankruptcy Law Journal in 1980. He was also “a recovering hippie,” said firm partner Mary Kuusisto. Gordanier helped the Life Raft Group with its Web site and helped the clinical trials advisory committee, said Norman Scherzer, executive director of the Life Raft Group. At one of their first meetings, “Dean took me for a ride in his yellow Boxer, which he called his chemo car, and drove at breathtaking speeds, top down, through the back roads of Cambridge,” said Scherzer. Last November, Gordanier was at a meeting of LRG directors. He spoke passionately about the ethical need to oppose the placebo in the Pfizer’s clinical trial of SU11248. Gordanier, added Scherzer, “was a corporate lawyer who looked like a hippie, drove like a maniac and walked the earth with the grace of goodness and caring. He reached out to countless GIST patients with wisdom and support. I and everyone else whom he came into contact with shall miss him dearly.” Gordanier was born in Seattle and grew up in Portland, Ore. He graduated from Reed College in Portland, where he majored in drama.
“He had a flair for the dramatic, whether he was making a presentation, engaged in a negotiation, or just teaching people,” said Asher. “He graduated in the ’60s, and he combined a ’60s sensibility with tax law.” After graduation, Gordanier spent time in San Francisco, where he was a carpenter and sold office supplies. “He was inspired by the Watergate hearings to go into law,” his wife, Rachael M. Dorr. “He was transfixed. He was looking at the government as inherently corrupt and evil and realized there was a legal system and it worked.” After graduating from Boston University Law School, Gordanier joined Testa in 1984. His wide desk accommodated two computers, one a PC and the other a Macintosh on which he made his spreadsheets and crunched numbers. It also contained nooks and crannies to hold the various electronic gadgets he collected over the years. He was the first in his office to purchase a Palm Pilot and “had a CD burner before there were CDs,” said another attorney at the firm, Arnold May. Mr. Gordanier did not just buy the electronic gear. “He learned how it worked,” said Kuusisto. “He read a book a day on a wide range of topics, anything that interested him.” Mr. Gordanier was known to offer a quick hug or a pat on the back to his colleagues. They called it the “Dean hug.” Each year Mr. Gordanier and his family attended the Burning Man Festival, a weeklong celebration of the visual and performing arts that draws tens of thousands of campers to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. The festival was founded by one of this childhood friends. A singer, Mr. Gordanier would “break into song at the drop of any phrase that suggested one,” said his wife. He also whistled fiddle tunes. “He was a tax attorney,” said Asher, “but his talents knew no borders.” In addition to his wife, Mr. Gordanier leaves three children, Amy, Mary and Thomas, all of Cambridge; his mother, Jacqueline of Oceanside, Ore.; and six siblings: Douglas, Mary, Shirley, Kathleen, Scott, and Rebecca, all of the Pacific Northwest. A memorial service was held at First Church Congregational in