USC Trustee Gordon S. Marshall, retired chairman of the board and founder of electronics giant Marshall Industries and namesake of the USC Marshall School of Business, died on June 2 in Pasadena. He was 95.
“Gordon Marshall was a soft-spoken man with a powerful entrepreneurial spirit and a profound dedication to the University of Southern California,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “His commitment to USC spanned seven decades, and his extraordinary philanthropy gave a dramatic boost to business education at this university. He was a true treasure, and we will always be grateful for the gifts he gave of his time and his leadership to USC.”
A Southern California native, Marshall served as a B-24 bomber pilot during World War II. After completing his military service, he enrolled at USC and graduated with a degree in accounting from what was then USC’s College of Commerce in 1946.
“Gordon Marshall was an inspiration, both to the USC community and to me personally,” said USC Marshall School of Business Dean James G. Ellis. “His words of wisdom served as a source of guidance and support, and his tireless dedication helped forge a legacy of excellence that continues to set the standard for U.S. business schools.”
His words of wisdom served as a source of guidance and support, and his tireless dedication helped forge a legacy of excellence that continues to set the standard for U.S. business schools.
Building on an interest in electronics that dated back to his experiences as a teenage ham radio operator, Marshall founded Marshall Industries in 1953 and dedicated the rest of his career to the electronics industry. The company, based in El Monte, was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1959 and eventually grew to become one of the five largest U.S. distributors of industrial electronic components, with offices in 38 North American cities. In 1999, the company was purchased by Avnet Inc. in a multimillion-dollar deal.
A modest man who liked to say that he “started with nothing and was lucky,” Marshall maintained strong ties to his alma mater throughout his career. He was elected to the USC Board of Trustees in 1968, was secretary of the board from 1970 to 1984, and served variously as chair of the academic affairs committee and as a member of the executive and development committees. As a committed Trojan, he seemingly never missed a USC football game.
At the business school, he was active in the Distribution Management Program, lectured in several courses and served as executive-in-residence. Marshall was recognized with the then-USC School of Business Administration’s Alumni Award for Business Excellence in 1994.
In 1996, Marshall pledged $35 million to the school, which was named the USC Gordon S. Marshall School of Business in his honor. At the time, his gift was the largest endowment ever made to a business school and the second largest in USC’s history.
Marshall received the Asa V. Call Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honor bestowed by the USC Alumni Association, in 2005.
In addition to his namesake school, Marshall’s name is commemorated at the university with the Gordon S. Marshall Chair in Engineering, the Gordon S. Marshall Early Career Chair and the Gordon S. Marshall Professorship in Engineering Technology at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
Beyond the university, Marshall was a director of Amistar Corp., serving as chairman of the board from 1974 to 1993. As a civic leader, he was a founder and associate of the Los Angeles Music Center. From 1973 to 1975, he served on then-Gov. Ronald Reagan’s California Post-Secondary Education Commission. He also served as a member of the state’s Committee for the Master Plan for Higher Education.
Marshall was preceded in death by his wife, Lynne Marshall, and is survived by daughters Alison Marshall ’83, Karen Marshall ’74, Valerie Marshall, Nancy McTaggart and Janet Willing, son Matt Smith, 14 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. A campus service celebrating his life will be held in the fall.