When high-tech leader Renée James takes the stage at this week’s convocation ceremony at the University of Oregon, the event promises to be part inspirational, part homecoming.
James, the CEO and chair of chipmaker Ampere Computing who also spent nearly three decades at Intel Corporation, including a stint as president, will deliver the keynote address Friday, Sept. 21, at 11 a.m. in Matthew Knight Arena.
Convocation is the UO’s traditional first event of the new academic year, marking the time the president officially welcomes new students, faculty members and staff. Convocation is a program of the Division of Undergraduate Studies and the Office of the Provost, and it’s tied to President Michael H. Schill’s initiative to advance and support student success.
Along with James, the event’s other speakers include Schill and Robert D. Clark Honors College senior Alex Mentzel.
James is a 1986 graduate of the UO's Portland-based executive MBA program who has appeared on Forbes magazine’s list of the most powerful women in business. At convocation, she plans to share some of her insights into how to make the most of an undergraduate education.
When she started college, she says, she didn’t have a plan.
“The truth is I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” James recalls. “It’s not like I showed up with a plan that I was going to be the president of Intel or head a high-tech firm. I received a very, very broad liberal arts education. And I used that education to become a creative thinker. My liberal arts background made me think about what was possible.”
James grew up in Los Gatos, California, the older of two girls. Her father hailed from a blue-collar, working-class family and was the first person in his family to attend college. He went to Stanford University on a scholarship and had a successful career at Hewlett-Packard.
Her mother was a 4.0 student who led by example, James said. She worked in law enforcement and at one time was the first woman with a badge at the sheriff’s office where she was employed. Her mother was “always the first woman to do a whole bunch of things in her career,” James recalls.
Watching them had an impact: “My parents were super motivated,” she says. “I’ve always been super competitive and I really am very tenacious. People who know me say I never give up.”
Take a look at James’ resumé and it’s clear that’s not an overstatement. She received her MBA from the UO’s Lundquist College of Business and spent 28 years at Intel, where she helped turn the computer chipmaker into the powerhouse it is today.
Establishing a global research and development network, managing global profits and losses, handling a variety of major mergers and acquisitions, and expanding the chipmaker giant’s operations are a few of her many accomplishments.
Currently, she serves as the chair and CEO of Ampere, a company that produces high-performance processors for computers, storage and other cloud-based needs. She is a current operating executive at the Carlyle Group, where she evaluates new tech investments and advises portfolio companies on their strategic direction and operational efficiency. She serves on the boards of Citigroup, Oracle, Vodafone and Sabre.
Even with all of her successes, James says one of the things she looks forward to most about convocation is that it will be a time for her to reconnect with the university and her old circle of friends.
“Some of the best friends I’ve made in my life I made at UO,” she says fondly, adding that her son and his roommates will be attending convocation. “And I can’t believe how many of my friends from high school and college now have kids attending Oregon. Sorority sisters, roommates, old friends. They’re all coming back. I’m really excited to return.”
—By David Austin, University Communications