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John Buckinger ’55

March 13, 2019, in Palm Springs, California.

John was born in Portland and started at Reed as a chemistry major. During the first two years, he recalled, he was having too much fun and was asked to leave. He worked in construction that summer and decided it wasn’t something he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Returning to Reed, he switched to physics and credited his mentor, Prof. Kenneth Davis [physics 1948–80], for getting him on the right track. With Prof. Nathan Wainfan [chemistry 1954–56] advising, John wrote his thesis, “Transparency of Thin Films in the Vacuum Ultraviolet.”

John’s father worked at Miller Paint, and while John was at Reed, he began working as a stock boy at the company. He progressed to paint maker and lab assistant. When he graduated, he went to work for RCA in New Jersey and then spent nine years with Boeing in Seattle and at Cape Canaveral. He returned to Miller Paint as a factory manager and by 1988 had become president and CEO of the company. 

John helped develop a new CGI tint system for formulating paint colors and became interested in environmental issues and their effect on the paint industry. He helped create Associated Businesses for Legislative Action, an industry group to study the issues, and worked with both the Environmental Protection Agency and the DEQ formulating regulation guidelines. He also implemented one of the first in-house hazardous material training programs.

John assisted in developing Metro's government-operated paint recycling operation and supervised the pilot batch, offering Miller Paint’s factory for the project. Prior to retiring, he converted Miller Paint to a wholly employee-owned company by establishing an employee stock-ownership program.

In 1955, John married Marjorie Munroe, with whom he had three daughters. The couple divorced and, in 1984, he married Donna Caughell, acquiring a stepson and stepdaughter to whom he was an active father.

The City of Portland awarded John and Miller Paint the Spirit of Portland Award for contributions of time and materials to charitable and city improvements, such as Christmas in April, REACH, and antigraffiti efforts. A longtime contributor to local youth organizations, John often supplied paint when needed without requesting recognition.

After retirement, John and Donna split their time between Vancouver and Palm Springs and enjoyed playing golf and traveling. They spent many nights out enjoying local music and making friends with the musicians. John is survived by his wife, Donna: his daughters, Elizabeth Johnson, Vivian Gysler, and Laura LeVigne; his stepson, Neal Caughell; and his sister, Elaine Chandler.

Appeared in Reed magazine: September 2019

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