Paying It Forward

USC Viterbi alumnus Bruce Hueners attended the university on a scholarship. Now, he wants to make others’ dreams come true with a $1 million scholarship gift.

Bruce Hueners, ’74, grew up knowing he would become a Trojan. His mother, Jean, had foreseen it when she was 6 years old.

It was 1931, and she was listening with her father to a wooden radio in Redondo Beach, California, as USC played Notre Dame in South Bend for the first time. The Howard Jones-coached Trojans—big underdogs to a team that hadn’t lost in three seasons—trailed by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter before storming back and winning 16-14 on a field goal with a minute remaining. That moment, she later told her sons, was when she determined that they would attend the University of Southern California.

This is why in donating $1 million to create a scholarship in perpetuity at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, Bruce Hueners, president and CEO of Palomar Technologies in Carlsbad, California, decided to call it the Hueners Family Endowment for Scholarship. He wanted the gift to include his mother and the Trojan legacy she conceived. Bruce Hueners and his brother, Dave, ’74, M.S. ’75, graduated from USC Viterbi. Bruce Hueners’ sons Richard and Greg followed his path to USC, as well, respectively earning their degrees from the Marshall School of Business and Price School of Public Policy.

“When you get to a certain age, you look at what you could leave behind you that will last,” said Bruce Hueners, 63. “If my mom could have known about this scholarship, she would really have been proud.”

Another reason Hueners wanted to create a scholarship at USC Viterbi is that he and his brother wouldn’t have been able to attend the school if they hadn’t received scholarships of their own. Jean was a single mother who worked as a teller at Bank of America.

“It’s nice of him to include the whole family in the endowment,” said Dave Hueners, a deputy director and building official for the city of Thousand Oaks, California, where he has worked for 35 years. “I think both of us reflect back upon what a great woman our mom was. I remember the day we graduated—we took a picture in front of Tommy Trojan, him in his ROTC uniform, me in my cap and gown, and our mother between us. She had quite a nice grin on her face knowing that the goal of her life to see that day had been realized.”

Bruce Hueners started at Palomar Technologies as a mechanical engineer in 1981, when it was a division of Hughes Aircraft. The company designs, manufactures, sells and services globally automated high-precision assembly systems. As he puts it, they make the machines that make computers.

“My machines make about 80 percent of the electronics that go into cell towers worldwide,” Hueners explained. “If you’re talking on your cellphone, sending a text or searching the Web, eight times out of 10 your signal is going through a device built by one of my machines.”

After holding nearly every job at the place over three decades, Hueners got the rare opportunity to own the company. During the economic crisis in the summer of 2008, he led the management team to buy out the majority owners at Citicorp. He has since taken Palomar out of debt and into sustained profitability.

Like USC, Palomar has become a family business. His sons Richard and Evan work for the company, with Richard a vice president of sales and marketing in the Singapore office. Palomar has subsidiaries in Singapore and Germany.

Hueners, who recently joined the USC Viterbi Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering (AME) advisory board, looks forward to bringing his expertise in mutual areas of focus such as robotics, manufacturing and the Pacific Rim.

“We much enjoy his positive energy, active contribution and insightful comments based on substantial overlap with the current and likely future areas of technical growth and innovation within the department,” said USC Viterbi Professor Geoff Spedding, AME department chair.

When he isn’t working, Hueners prefers to dress in jeans and tennis shoes for his low-key lifestyle in Carlsbad. His hobbies include woodworking and gardening. He finds building cabinetry from his garage and keeping his Tifgreen hybrid Bermuda grass to golf-course quality helps him clear his head and come up with ideas.

Hueners credits the discipline, knowledge and confidence he gained at USC Viterbi for his success.

“The dedication of the professors and the Trojan family really had an indelible impression on me,” he said. “I have found the USC bond to be an enduring, global relationship that is genuine and vibrant everywhere I travel. I consider myself greatly privileged to be an alumnus of the finest university in the land.”