UC Riverside Engineering Benefactor Dies

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Marlan Bourns, for whom the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering and Bourns Hall are named, died March 18

By Sean Nealon on March 21, 2014

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Marlan Bourns being named a fellow of the Bourns College of Engineering in 2012.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (www.ucr.edu) — Marlan Bourns, for whom the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering and Bourns Hall are named, died Tuesday, March 18. He was 93 years old. The college and hall are also named after his late wife, Rosemary, who died in 2012.

“Marlan Bourns’ innovative and generous spirit will live on in the legacy he leaves at UC Riverside,” Chancellor Kim Wilcox said. “We will remember him with gratitude and strive to honor him through the accomplishments of the faculty and students at the college that bears his name.

Reza Abbaschian, dean of the Bourns College of Engineering expressed similar sentiments for Bourns, who co-founded Riverside-based Bourns Inc., a leading manufacturer and supplier of electronic components.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the Bourns family for their tremendous loss,” Abbaschian said. “Marlan was an inspiration to all of us for his inventive and creative spirit, his drive to succeed and his gentle nature. He and his lovely wife Rosemary created more than a story of entrepreneurial success, but one of lasting friendships and a commitment to family – their family at home and at their business.”

The Bourns family encourages those who wish to honor Marlan’s life to do so by contributing to the Marlan Bourns Memorial Fund at UC Riverside.

The Bourns family created the Bourns Foundation to support educational causes in the region. In 1994, a $6 million gift from the foundation led to the naming of the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering at UC Riverside in their honor, along with Bourns Hall, which is part of the engineering college.

The Bourns family has also been a long sponsor of the annual Bourns Engineering Day at UC Riverside, which brings hundreds of students to campus for hands-on engineering activities. The family’s foundation also created The Bourns Foundation Engineering Scholarship Endowment Fund to provide financial assistance to students in the Bourns College of Engineering.

In addition, Marlan and Rosemary Bourns were recognized as UCR Laureates in 2000. Marlan was elected a fellow of the Bourns College of Engineering in 2012.

Bourns Inc. is now led by Marlan and Rosemary’s son, Gordon Bourns, who is CEO and chairman of the company and also serves as chairman of the Bourns College of Engineering Council of Advisors.

Marlan Bourns was born in 1920 and grew up on his family’s farm near Milford, Michigan. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.S. degree in physics from the University of Michigan. He then worked at Cal Tech during World War II. At its conclusion, he married his sweetheart from Milford, Rosemary Miller. They were married for 65 years when she passed away in September 2012.

After driving from Milford to Pasadena for their honeymoon, they co-founded the Bourns Laboratories in their single-car garage. Marlan developed innovative sensors for the aircraft industry, which he produced using a simple drill press and lathe, that measured the position of flight control surfaces, altitude and acceleration.

Marlan and Rosemary built the company, which moved to Riverside in 1950, around a simple philosophy: Provide top-quality products, responsive service and high value for customers. These ideals are still the benchmarks of Bourns, Inc., which grew from a few engineers to more than 4,000 employees.

Bourns, Inc., serves global customers in the industrial, consumer, telecommunications and automotive markets. Bourns products, including the then-revolutionary Trimpot® trimming potentiometer which Marlan invented, have been used in everything from the Apollo space program’s lunar landing controls and astronaut space suit pressure regulators, to the electronic stability controls for today’s automobiles.

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