(Includes excerpts from the March 20 Press Enterprise article by Richard K. De Atley)
(Photo credit: UC Riverside Bourns College of Engineering)
Marlan Bourns, who with his wife Rosemary established a Riverside-based global corporation based on his electronic inventions that help keep airplanes, missiles, and lunar landers on course, cars stopping and going, and let musicians crank up the volume on their electric guitars, has passed away.
He was 93, and had more than 100 patents to his name, the first of those created in a single-car garage. Rosemary Bourns died in 2012. The couple’s other legacy was established in 1994 when they endowed UC Riverside with $6 million for what became the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering, a school that now has 2,300 undergraduate students and 600 post-graduate students. They also established Bourns Laboratories at Cal Baptist University’s School of Engineering.
Marlan and Rosemary Bourns, both University of Michigan graduates, combined the no-nonsense approach of their Midwestern roots with the inventiveness of the post-war, aerospace-industry Southern California.
“My mother and father had always been a team. While my dad was in the garage building the sensors in the early years, mom took care of the books and paying taxes,” said Gordon Bourns. He said she turned those duties over to employees as the family grew. One photo of Marlan Bourns from the company’s early days shows him pointing to a sign – made by Rosemary – that urged employees to provide quality, service, and value for the customers, Gordon Bourns said during a telephone interview Friday.
“Another cornerstone my parents understood was the value of having good employees, paying them fairly, and having respect for them. We have employees who have been here for 45 and 50 years,” Gordon Bourns said. There are about 4,500 Bourns company workers employed in eight manufacturing plants in the United States, Costa Rica, Hungary, Germany, England, China, Ireland, Taiwan and Mexico. The company’s annual revenue approaches $500 million.
By 1950, the company had moved to Magnolia Avenue in Riverside. An assembly plant was established in Ames, Iowa in 1956 to meet the growing demand for the Trimpot, and in 1962, the company opened a 60,000-square-foot facility at Columbia and Iowa avenues in Riverside and a European sales headquarters in Baar, Switzerland.
The growth and acquisitions continued into 21st Century. The devices created by Bourns are ubiquitous in electronics. More spectacular applications over the decades include an air pressure sensor used in Apollo program spacesuits and controls in the lunar landing module and Mars Exploration Rover . Bourns devices also are embedded in acceleration and braking systems for vehicles, as well as the headlight systems. The company’s components are in medical devices, personal computers, electric guitars, telecommunications, network communications and office machines.
Bourns Inc. exemplifies the kind of company successful cities seek to attract to their community. Their contributions to both UCR and the technology community, including the Riverside Technology CEO Forum, have shaped and will continue to shape Riverside’s students and future leaders.
To read the full article from the Press Enterprise, click here.