Sharp Labs CEO Van Oosterhout dies

His predecessor named interim leader

By Libby Clark, Columbian Web Editor

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Jack Van Oosterhout, president and chief executive officer of Camas-based Sharp Laboratories of America, has died after a 10-year battle with cancer.

Van Oosterhout, 64, had overseen Sharp Labs, a research-and-development subsidiary of giant consumer electronics company Sharp Corp., for the past four years after a promotion from vice president of Sharp Labs’ digital imaging department.

His predecessor, Jon Clemens, who served as the unit’s first president for 11 years before retiring in 2006, will step in as interim president until a replacement is named.

“My job will be to find someone else, and I don’t know how long that will take,” Clemens said.

Clemens doesn’t expect any major changes to the company’s operations in the short term, but a new president will likely bring new ideas and a new focus to the research-oriented subsidiary, he said.

Though many Sharp employees were aware of Van Oosterhout’s illness, they were shocked by his death, said Linda Hoyt, director of human resources and intellectual property.

“He was at work pretty much up until the time he passed away,” Hoyt said.

He died June 10 at Southwest Washington Medical Center.

Strong management skills, an uncompromising work ethic and a deliberate, thoughtful intelligence characterized Van Oosterhout’s leadership, his friends and colleagues say.

As the first employee of Sharp Labs when it was founded in 1995, Van Oosterhout helped grow the company to its current size of 185 employees in Camas and Huntington Beach, Calif. In 1999, he helped start Sharp Software and Development India, a subsidiary with about 120 employees in Bangalore, and would frequently travel there as an adviser.

As president, Van Oosterhout managed the development of cutting-edge technologies found in Sharp Corp.’s many products including high-definition televisions, cell phones and solar panels. He maintained the lab’s position as a statewide leader in patents filed and turned up the volume, increasing productivity and efficiency with a reorganization that improved the company’s operations, Hoyt said.

“He had an incredible intellect; the breadth of his knowledge was phenomenal to me,” Hoyt said. “But on a personal level, he was so down-to-earth … Any employee could go in and talk to him about anything they wanted.”

Through his work on the High Tech Council, a group of 10 Clark County technology industry leaders, Van Oosterhout helped lead the region to invest in its high-tech industry cluster. He sat on the council as it lobbied to build the Southeast 192nd Avenue interchange on state Highway 14 and a new research center at Washington State University, said Rob Bernardi, president of Kokusai in Vancouver and chairman of the High Tech Council.

“Jack always had an opinion on various things as they came up and he could be counted on to be the solid voice of reason, never emotional,” Bernardi said. “Jack would just roll up his sleeves and work hard.”

A memorial service will be held June 17 at 2 p.m. at Brown’s Funeral Home in Camas. Donations in Van Oosterhout’s memory may be sent to the American Cancer Society or Doctors Without Borders.