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Linfield Fall 2012

Alumni p r o f i l e A focus on the future Gordon Brinser ’87 knows the world he wants to leave for future generations. And as president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc., the largest photovoltaic company in the U.S., he’s working toward a more sustainable future. An Eagle Scout and avid outdoorsman, Brinser learned to appreciate the environment during his childhood, and his work at SolarWorld provides a clear match for his values. “I could have been manufacturing widgets every day of my life for another 20 years, but at the end of the day, what would I have contributed to future generations?” said Brinser, who joined SolarWorld in 2008 and, soon after, turned an empty Hillsboro building into a 1,000-employee manufacturing plant. He travels often, including to Germany where the company is based. Educating the community and getting students excited about technology is crucial to Brinser. He has concerns about the lack of youth studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). “We are not graduating enough students in those fields,” said Brinser, who studied applied physics at Linfield. “We need a pipeline of students excited about the sciences. We’re not providing our kids with the opportunities they need to get the education that will be required for them and the U.S. to be successful in generations to come.” SolarWorld reaches out to local schools and supports various programs, including robotics and living roof initiatives. Last year, SolarWorld supported the Self Express, a Linfield student-led sustainability bus tour. Gordon Brinser ’87, right, president of SolarWorld Industries America, leads a Personally, Brinser and wife Melissa (Killin) ’92 have been tour with Senator Ron Wyden, center, and others. Brinser says education is a consistent supporters of Linfield as well, as members of the foundation for sustainable communities, which are vital to our nation’s future. President’s Circle. “Linfield was a vital part of our education and our Gold certifi cation for sustainable building. The roof features 85 connection,” he explained. “This is a place we can make solar panels, along with photo cells elsewhere in the building. an impact long-term. Anything we can do to help support “It is an investment,” said Brinser, who uses solar in his education is vital, not just for our family but for the livability of home. “There’s a clear return on the investment, in your communities in Oregon.” electrical costs and your carbon footprint. It’s something you’ll The U.S. was once the dominant global manufacturer of benefit from for years to come.” solar power products, but now manufactures less than 5 percent At Linfield, Brinser learned more than just science. He said of the world’s supply, something Brinser calls an alarming trend his liberal arts training prepared him for the leadership roles he’s and hopes to change. taken on in his career. “It’s a national treasure for the U.S.,” said Brinser, who in recent “Linfi eld taught me the importance and value of an individual,” months has spoken out on behalf of a coalition of companies led he said. “People really knew you and cared about you as a person at by SolarWorld in a complaint against China regarding illegal trade Linfi eld. You’re an individual, not just one more face in a class.” subsidies. Without government enforcement of free trade laws, Brinser appreciated the support of professors like Clancy he said, American solar companies will struggle to survive against Hinrichs ’57 and Roger Dell, who allowed him to take risks in illegal foreign trade practices. According to a preliminary decision in a safe environment. As a manager, he encourages his employees May, the U.S. government will enforce tariffs of up to 250 percent to take calculated risks as well. “If you don’t challenge yourself, on Chinese solar panels and cells. learning and innovation stall,” Brinser said, “and both are critical The cost of solar has continually come down over decades of to long-term success.” focused effort. Linfi eld’s T.J. Day Hall recently received a LEED – Laura Davis Fall 2012 l i n f i e l d m a g a z i n e - 3 1


Linfield Fall 2012
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