The Donald P. Shiley School of Engineering will celebrate the 100th birthday of Charles Howard Vollum, co-founder of Tektronix, on Friday, May 31, from 3 to 5 p.m., in Shiley Hall, according to Aziz Inan, engineering. The celebration will include an invocation by Rev. David Sherrer, C.S.C., welcoming remarks by engineering dean Sharon Jones followed by presentations by former and current Tektronix employees and Vollum’s sons, Don and James Vollum, and the unveiling of an extremely rare, vintage Tektronix 511 oscilloscope found recently in storage in Shiley Hall. All faculty and staff are invited; please RSVP to Jamie Strohecker, engineering, at 7292 or firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday, May 28.
Charles Howard Vollum was born in Portland, Oregon, on May 31, 1913 and died on February 5, 1986, at age 72. He enrolled at the University of Portland (then named Columbia University) in 1931 and completed a two-year program in engineering in 1933. He then transferred to Reed College where he majored in physics, graduating in 1936. Following his graduation, in the midst of the Great Depression, Vollum worked as a radio technician before he was inducted into U.S. Army in 1941. Vollum’s wartime experience gave him the opportunity to study state-of-the-art technology on Cathode-Ray-Tube (CRT) displays and to collaborate with other experts in this field.
In 1946, Vollum co-founded a company to design, manufacture, and market laboratory oscilloscopes. The company was first named Tekrad, but then a month later changed its name to Tektronix (drawn from “technology” and “electronics”), due to a trademark conflict. Tektronix built its first high-performance, low-cost oscilloscope, the 511, using electronic parts purchased from government surplus. When released in 1947, the 511 was superior to any oscilloscope on the market. Over a period of forty years, Tektronix turned into a $1.5 billion-per-year, 20,000 plus employee electronics company. Tektronix engineers built many different types of electronic test and measurement instruments as well as other products such as television monitors and computers. By many, Vollum is considered to be the “father” of Oregon’s electronics industry (Silicon Forest). He was a major donor and contributor to the University of Portland and served on its board of trustees from 1955 until his death in 1986. The Vollum Study Room, located in the Donald P. Shiley School of Engineering, is named in his honor.