OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

From Scio to Silicon Valley: OSU donor makes history

08/27/1997

CORVALLIS - It's a long way from Scio, Ore., to the top of one of Silicon Valley's most successful companies. Just ask Bernie "Bing" Newcomb.

The donor of Oregon State University's largest gift of private stock knows all the stops. For him they included Salem, Scio, and Corvallis, Ore.; Richland, Wash.; San Francisco and Palo Alto, Calif.

Before he became one of the founders of the E-Trade Group, an Internet company that has revolutionize the on-line trading of stock, Newcomb was like thousands of other entrepreneurs. He'd worked behind the scenes in many small companies, waiting years to find just the right idea at just the right moment.

Surprisingly, it came at a party in 1982.

It was there he spoke with Bill Porter, a man he'd met earlier in his career as a free lance computer programmer. Porter had the idea of selling stock using personal computers. Owning a personal computer and being fascinated with a small Bay Area computer service company had convinced Porter there was a business opportunity with emerging personal technology.

He convinced Newcomb to join him as a partner in a new company called Trade Plus. They aimed to sell safe, secure computer language to service companies, which had been formed to provide electronic data processing to big name investment companies nationwide.

"Bill thought of it; I implemented it," said Newcomb, an expert programmer.

Millions of lines of programming code later, Trade Plus found its way to the marketplace. In 1983, the company made its first electronic stock trade. Eight years later, the E-Trade Group grew out of Trade Plus and vaulted into the burgeoning world of the Internet with a deep discount brokerage that has since helped change the way millions of Americans buy and sell securities.

"We polished the company up and then took it public," Newcomb recalled. The company's initial public offering of stock in 1996 increased the personal wealth and recognition of both partners.

"I've been fortunate," Newcomb said. "I grew up in a modest home with modest goals. Now I'm able to give something back."

On Wednesday, Newcomb and Oregon State University jointly announced a private gift of 200,000 shares of the E-Trade Group stock to the university. The gift, valued at $6.1 million, will create two new endowments that will directly benefit students and faculty in OSU's College of Business.

The gift acknowledges Newcomb's interest in education and his own educational experience.

Because of limited sight, Newcomb attended the Oregon School for the Blind in Salem for his first years of elementary school. He moved into the public schools at Scio in the third grade, and became Scio High School's valedictorian in 1961.

He started at Oregon State with the idea that he might someday attend law school. But he gravitated into business and earned his undergraduate degree from OSU's Business College in 1965.

"The placement guy at OSU helped me get my first job," Newcomb said. "The G.E. company recruiter later told me that it was because of him that I was hired."

That first job was with General Electric's management group at the Hanford nuclear reservation. It introduced Newcomb to various business interests and to what was eventually to become his career in management information systems.

In the late 1960s, he began his first start-up company, which was formed by his manager at Hanford. It failed, along with the Northwest economy, toward the end of the decade and by the early 1970s his career took him to the San Francisco area to work as a computer programming consultant for various small software companies. His work focused mainly on services for banks, insurance companies and securities.

Bill Porter, Trade Plus and the E-Trade Group came thereafter.

Today, Newcomb has retired from the company. He plans to travel, and one of his first trips, he said, will be back to Oregon State University to participate in homecoming activities this fall.