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Dr. James Truchard, co-founder of National Instruments (now known as NI), has established two endowed chairs to benefit computer science and electrical engineering at Texas A&M University. | Image: James Truchard

After a successful career in pioneering software-based instrumentation, Dr. James Truchard is giving back to the educational sector to promote the future of electrical engineers, computer engineers, and computer scientists. He has recently established two endowed chairs at Texas A&M University — one in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the other in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Truchard spent his childhood on a farm near Columbus, Texas. The environment was primitive, without electricity or indoor plumbing. He attended a one-teacher school in Mentz, a nearby community, for primary education and went on to graduate from Columbus High School as valedictorian in 1960. The launch of the Sputnik 1 satellite in 1958 by Russia would spur a new urgency in science in the United States with the beginning of the space race, and it would inspire Truchard to study physics and Russian in college.

He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from The University of Texas in Austin and earned his doctoral degree in electrical engineering while working at the university’s Applied Research Laboratories in the measurements division. As a managing director, he was responsible for testing many components of the U.S. Navy’s fleet sonar.

“That experience got me excited about software-based instrumentation and software user interfaces,” Truchard said.

He enjoyed his work but had a vision for something bigger that could bring solutions to the challenges he saw in his industry. In 1976, with his garage as home base, Truchard and two of his colleagues, Jeff Kodosky and Bill Nowlin, founded National Instruments, now known as NI. NI developed software such as LabVIEW, which revolutionized the test and measurement industry, serving millions of scientists and engineers with PC-based instrumentation. 

Over the past 40 years, NI has grown into a multinational company that serves the academic, aerospace, defense, electronics, transportation and industrial machinery industries, among others. Success for each of NI’s stakeholders — the customers, employees, shareholders and suppliers — was a key priority for Truchard.

Since his retirement in 2017, Truchard has focused on giving his time, expertise and resources to further the education and innovation of engineering and software technology through various avenues, notably including Alzheimer’s research. 

In an effort to give back to the schools that have consistently provided his company with a large number of high-quality employees, he has made gifts to several schools across Texas. Texas A&M is among the top three schools that NI has recruited from, alongside The University of Texas and Rice University.

We’ve hired a lot of Aggies over the years, and this is a way to pay that back.

Dr. James Truchard

He established the Truchard Foundation Endowed Chair in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Truchard Family Endowed Chair in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Distributions from these endowments will be used to support the teaching, research, service and professional development activities of the chair holders.

“I see establishing chairs as one of the most important things you can do,” Truchard said. “Giving chairs for the basic research and teaching seems to produce the most leverage for universities.”

He hopes his gift will help promote the growth of technology research and exploration, something that he has already both contributed to and witnessed throughout his career and lifetime.

“I like to engage in intellectual investment in my field,” Truchard said. “I want to be involved in the process of discovery.”

How to Give

Endowments supporting students in the college have an immeasurable impact on their education. If you are interested in supporting the College of Engineering and its departments or would like more information on how you can give, please contact Ryan Mason, director of development.