Mechanical Engineering – 1967
Jerry S. Rawls excelled in math and science at an early age and upon graduating from Bellaire High School in Houston, he entered the engineering program at Texas Tech in 1962. He earned his Bachelor of Science of Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Texas Tech University in 1967 and went on to earn a Master of Science Degree in Industrial Administration from Purdue University in 1968.
After leaving Purdue he joined Raychem Corporation, a rapidly growing materials science and engineering business servicing the electronics industry, in Menlo Park, California and began a twenty–year career with them. In 1977, he became the Marketing Manager at Raychem and during his last six years there he was General Manager of two successful divisions, including the Interconnections Systems Division that employed 500 people and was the company’s fastest growing and most profitable business unit.
In 1988, Rawls decided to form his own fiber optics product development group and founded Finisar with a partner, funding start–up operations with their own money. Finisar’s devices provide the optical input and output for high–speed computer networks. In 1992 he and his partner revolutionized the fiber optic communication industry with a new low–cost approach to optical communications that lowered the cost of optical links for local networks by a factor of 10. Originally viewed as technically impossible by conventional wisdom, Finisar’s proposal was unanimously adopted by the ANSI committee as the basis for today’s Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet Standards.
In 1999, the company went public and raised $149.3 million. By the close of trading on the first day Finisar stock rose 373%, making Finisar the seventh largest first day gainer in the history of Wall Street at that time. The company now employs 1,300 people and has a presence in four California cities as well as in Dallas, Austin, Princeton, N.J., Malaysia, Singapore, Shanghai, and Munich.
While at Tech, he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, the Saddle Tramps, the Student Senate, the engineering honor societies Tau Beta Pi and Pi Tau Sigma, and was elected Business Manager of the Texas Tech Student Body. He has continued this service to education and leadership through many outstanding philanthropic endeavors. In 2000, he donated $10 million to Krannert who named the new management hall in his honor. In December of the same year, he gave the $25 million to Texas Tech, the largest gift ever received by the university, to the College of Business Administration, which was recently named after him. An avid golfer, Jerry also gave an additional $8.5 million to fund the new Texas Tech collegiate golf course in 2001.
Mr. Rawls has been a member or IEEE since 1980, and is on Tech’s Rawls College of Business Dean’s Advisory Council. He is a Distinguished Alumni Lecturer for Purdue University’s Krannert Graduate School of Management and received an Honorary Doctorate Degree from Purdue in 2001. Forbes Magazine included Jerry in its list of Corporate America’s Most Powerful People. In addition, he chaired the renovation committee for R. McNair School (a minority middle school) and was a Youth Sports Coach for Boys Little League, Elementary School Basketball (boys and girls) and a girls softball coach.
Mr. Rawls has two children, Amanda Rawls who lives in San Francisco and Steven Rawls who attends the University of Arizona.
Texas Tech University is honored and proud to name Jerry S. Rawls as DISTINGUISHED ENGINEER.