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J. ERIK JONSSON

1901–1995

Elected in 1971

“For contributions as an engineer, industrialist, public servant, and philanthropist, to effective management and the broad-scale application of engineering concepts to urban problems.”


BY ROLAND W. SCHMITT


J. ERIK JONSSON, a pioneer of the semiconductor industry, visionary political leader of his home city of Dallas, and generous philanthropist, died at the age of 93 at his home on September 1, 1995. In 1971, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and in 1974 the academy awarded him the prestigious Founders Medal.

Erik Jonsson was born in 1901 in Brooklyn, New York, the only child of Swedish immigrants. His father, who owned a small grocery store, wanted Erik to cut school short and join him in the business, but his mother encouraged him to get a good education. She prevailed, and after completing four years of high school in three years, Erik entered Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), from which he graduated in 1922 with a degree in mechanical engineering. Thus, began his lifelong association with RPI. He eventually became the largest benefactor of that institution in its history.

After graduation, Erik Jonsson took the best job offer he could get—$125 a month—as a rolling mill apprentice with the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA). He made a brief but unsuccessful try as a Pontiac dealer but soon returned to ALCOA. He met his future wife, Margaret Fonde, at a Halloween party on a business trip to Tennessee and proposed the next day on their first date. They were married in 1923 and remained joined



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