Bernard A. Newcomb
Nov. 10, 1942-Jan. 29, 2023
Palo Alto, California
An angel funder who loved life, family, adventure, and giving to help others, Bernard A. Newcomb passed away Sunday, January 29, at his home in Palo Alto, CA, with his wife Gerry (Marshall) Newcomb by his side. Known to many as Bernie, but to his family, community, and college, he was “Bing.” He will be missed by all who were fortunate enough to cross his witty path.
Newcomb grew up in the small town of Scio, Oregon, the middle child of Lyle and Agnes Newcomb. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his brother, Jerry, stepson Forbes Marshall, his close friend, David Lowe, cousins, nephews, nieces, caring neighbors, and many dear friends of a lifetime.
Although born with congenital cataracts and legally blind, nothing held him back. A pioneer in systems development, Newcomb co-founded E*TRADE, the online brokerage firm, with Bill Porter. When the company went public in 1996, Newcomb described it as a “14-year overnight success.” He took his earnings and invested them heavily in persons, causes, and charities, “giving people a hand up rather than a handout.” Though a businessman, Newcomb was most comfortable giving his resources to improve the lives of others.
He excelled in all ways. Newcomb was the first in his family to complete university education, consistently making the Dean’s List, and graduating third in his class from the College of Business at Oregon State University (OSU), where he was a member of the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity. He was an avid reader, wine maker, snow and water skier, lover of sports, especially baseball, and hiked the wilderness with friends and his dog, “Moose.” He enjoyed dinners out with friends, traveled the whole of North America mostly by train and RV, and “saw” the world from the North Pole to the Antarctic.
He attended Oregon School for the Blind from kindergarten through second grade, having to board during the week and return home on weekends. He attended public schools in Scio through high school, where he graduated as class valedictorian.
He supported Oregon State University with scholarships for students in need and academic programs in the College of Business, encouraging his beneficiaries to give to others. OSU named Bing’s Café in Weatherford Hall and Trader Bing’s Café in Austin Hall, referencing his college nickname. The Bernard A. Newcomb Digital Commons in Austin Hall, a computer lab, is also named in his honor.
Upon graduation, he found that accounting firms and banks did not consider him employable because of his blindness. His college placement counselor persuaded General Electric to hire Newcomb in their data processing department at the Hanford Project in Richland, Washington, where he was employed for three years.
Speaking to his scholarship recipients, he always encouraged them to work hard and never give up. Stories of his perseverance are many. As a young man in the business world, he rose early, at 3:00 am, tied a flashlight with duct tape to his handlebars, and rode his bicycle to work, to be there before the stock market opened in New York.
Little could be done to improve his own eyesight, yet Newcomb wanted future generations to enjoy vision. He supported ophthalmology research through All May See Foundation in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where he funded the Bernie and Gerry Newcomb Center for Innovative Eye Surgery.
He established the Bernard A. Newcomb Foundation in 2005 at the Peninsula Community Foundation, which later merged with Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Among his many causes were Second Harvest Food Bank, Salvation Army, Raising a Reader, Hadley School for the Blind in Illinois, VISTA Center, Bookshare, and the American Foundation for the Blind, where he received the prestigious Helen Keller Achievement Award.
Especially loyal to his roots, Newcomb donated to Scio High School sport programs, specifically football. He and his family donated a new football field, running track, and stadium with athletic facilities. He was a good neighbor and supported Castilleja School for young women in Palo Alto.
He never sought recognition by naming “things,” but always thought of the people helped by these investments. He extended his family of friends through his many years at E*TRADE, his Snow Drifters ski club, his group of wine makers, Newcomb Foundation board, and friends made in philanthropic partnerships.
The family wishes to thank the former president of Oregon State University, Ed Ray; former Dean of the College of Business, Ilene Kleinsorge; and Shawn Scoville and Aaron Escobar, of OSU Foundation, who lovingly referred to Newcomb as a “shy exhibitionist.” The family expresses deep appreciation for UCSF doctors Jacque Duncan, David Hwang, and Creig Hoyt. The family also expresses much gratitude to caregivers, Ian, Sam, Vivian, and Hector.
His wife Gerry said, “his friends were his true, lifelong, treasures.” In Newcomb’s own words, he would say about all of this, “awe shucks!”
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests gifts in his memory to charitable causes or personal interests. Plans for a memorial are pending.