James and Becky Morgan

Leading lights in the public and private sectors

For James and Becky Morgan, one side effect of a lifetime of service in the public and private sectors was a paucity of free time.

"My husband and I figured out years ago that if we were to have any time together at all we needed to take about an hour every week to compare calendars. Otherwise we might never see each other," Becky said.

The Morgans, who met while attending Cornell University, came to Silicon Valley in 1968 just as the area was undergoing a massive shift from a largely agricultural landscape to the suburban and technological center it is today.

"My husband was working for a company in Burbank called Dalmo Victor, and they asked him to relocate temporarily to San Carlos. What was supposed to be four months at first turned into six and we figured, 'Well, we might as well move,'" Becky explained.

Before she began serving on the Palo Alto board of education in 1973, Becky taught a number of adult-education courses, and worked as a substitute teacher. Hinting at her diverse range of interests and skills, she also added dressmaking to her resume.

After receiving a master's degree in business administration from Stanford University, she worked as an assistant vice president for Bank of America between 1978 and 1980, when she successfully ran for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. After chairing the board for one year, she served as a board member from 1981 through 1984.

"I think I got my drive to serve the community from my father, who always had a strong influence on me. He worked very hard and was always active in our community," Becky said.

She credits her strong work ethic to growing up on her family's dairy farm in Vermont. "When you grow up on a farm, hard work is inevitable and I learned the value of effort in achieving goals. Later on, I worked my way through college at Cornell by waiting tables. I was already a hard worker, but out of necessity I learned how to be an efficient worker as well," she said.

That efficiency served Morgan well as a California State Senator from 1984 to 1993. Of all her varied accomplishments as a public servant, Morgan counts one from her tenure as a senator as one of her proudest. In 1986, she introduced legislation that saved the Caltrain commuter line that runs from San Francisco to Gilroy.

"That year, the state's 10-year contract with Southern Pacific Railroads was to run out, and the three counties which Caltrain serves were in danger of losing a very important transportation resource. The legislation created the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which is the government body that manages Caltrain now," she said.

"I think because I grew up with relatively few resources, I've always gotten a great deal of satisfaction out of helping people and serving the community," she added.

James' resume as a businessman and philanthropist is extensive, including presidential awards, as well as acclaim from the semiconductor industry and valley leadership groups.

He has been the chairman of the board of Applied Materials, the leading nanotechnology design and manufacturing firm, since 1987. Before he joined Applied Materials as the company's president in 1976, he was a senior partner at a venture capital partnership connected with the Bank of America Corporation. Prior to that, he worked for Textron, a diversified manufacturing company.

In 1996, President Clinton awarded Morgan the National Medal of Technology for his work in building Applied Materials into a worldwide technology pioneer and industry leader. He is a recipient of the Robert N. Noyce award, the Semiconductor Industry Association's highest honor, as well as the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's Lifetime Achievement Award for his business principles and accomplishments.

Among the boards and commissions on which he has served are the President's Export Council, the Nature Conservancy and the Commission on U.S.-Pacific Trade and Investment Policy, which advised President Clinton and Congress.

The Morgan Family Foundation, established in 1993, is a testament to the family's belief in investing in the future of their community through philanthropy and community involvement. The foundation, which Becky calls "a family affair," is run by the couple, as well as their two adult children and their spouses.

"I think my husband and I have very similar interests both personally and professionally. We're both very competitive, so we could never run a business together, but we're very family-oriented people," she said.

The foundation focuses its giving on four major goals, which include youth, education, environment and stewardship. Grant-making through the foundation is designed around empowering people to be self-sufficient and helping organizations to reach their full potential. The couple sums it up in the foundation's values statement: "Generosity is contagious and should be encouraged in others."

Though they have spent years working tirelessly to achieve their goals, the Morgans are grateful for the help they have received over the years, and consider themselves fortunate for their success.

Becky explained that a turning point in her life came at age 15, when her church sponsored an educational cultural-exchange trip through Europe for five girls and five boys.

"Somehow our minister found the money to send us on a trip through Europe. We met with kids our age from 13 different countries, visited and just learned about each other and our cultures. The whole experience was eye-opening for a 15-year old girl from the farm, and I think it was what inspired me to go to college, which at the time only two people in my family had ever done," she explained.

"So yes, we've worked hard, but we also feel grateful for all the help and support we've gotten over the years."

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Like this comment
Posted by Bob Harrington
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2008 at 5:00 pm

Not incidentally, Jim Morgan's achievements as CEO of semiconductor equipment company Applied Materials for a quarter-century (1977 to 2003)are recognized within management circles as representing the best among the best. During Jim's tenure, Applied Materials' shareholders enjoyed the highest rate of return on investment of any Silicon Valley stock, bar none.

Jim's achievements are legendary, as are Becky's. Well deserved Lifetimes of Achievement Award, yet further examples of those who have helped make Silicon Valley great.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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