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Howard Vollum never lost passion for oscilloscope innovations

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tektronix President Amir Aghdaei chats with Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle during the 100th birthday celebration of founder Howard Vollum, who died in 1986.Ruth Haugsten hasn't been Howard Vollum's secretary since 1986, but sharing memories of her boss of 20 years still leaves her misty-eyed.

"He was a very self-effacing person," she said of the Tektronix founder, who passed away of a sudden illness in 1986. "If there was a group of people in the room, he would go over to each person and draw them out. He spent a lot of time listening. Very few people in his position do such a thing."

If Vollum were alive today, he'd have his hands full with the throngs who turned out for what would've been his 100th birthday on Friday. A program to honor Vollum and his contributions to electronic innovations drew a couple hundred current and former employees, local leaders, relatives and friends to the Tektronix campus off Southwest Jenkins Road.

Speakers at the event, held in the the company's auditorium in Building 38 and an adjacent reception room, included Textronix President Amir Aghdaei, Vice President Curt Bludworth, Tom Buzak, president of Tektronix Component Solutions, Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle and Don Vollum, one of Howard Vollum's four sons.by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tektronix President Amir Aghdaei chats with employees during a 100th birthday celebration for founder Howard Vollum.

"He really loved this company, the people who worked here, and the products and innovations," Don Vollum, 46, said during the reception. "He would be excited to see the spirit is still here, the technological advances and knowing Tektronix is still building the world's best oscilloscopes. Actually, he was a pretty modest guy. He wouldn't use that hyperbole. He would probably say 'very good' oscilloscopes."

With his partner, Melvin J. "Jack" Murdock, Vollum invented the world’s first time-base triggered oscilloscope — an instrument measuring oscillations of electrical voltage and current — in 1946.

After several moves around the Portland area, Tektronix established its 300-acre campus at 14200 S.W. Karl Braun Drive, just outside of Beaverton in Washington County. In 2007, Danaher Corporation acquired the company in a $2.85 billion deal.

The company rolled out its latest product, a precision, multi-phase PA4000 Power Analyzer in April, within a month of announcing its movement into the power analyzer market.

Don Vollum, who runs a financial investment firm, became Howard's only son not to follow in his father's footsteps.

"He would've liked all of us to be engineers, but he was quite supportive of what we wanted to do," he said, recalling his dad's unbridled enthusiasm even as he turned the reins over to others in his later years. "He wasn't here day to day, but I can't imagine any time up to the day he died when he wasn't telling someone about what the products are all about."by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tektronix employee Ankush Kaul checks out some historic literature during the 100th birthday celebration of company founder, the late Howard Vollum.

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