John Thornton's career began with a commission in the U.S. Navy Reserve, where he served two years aboard a destroyer picket ship off Korea and the Formosa patrol.
In the late 1950s, after earning his bachelor's and master's degrees, he started a small manufacturing company, a real estate development company and taught at the UCSD Extension.
In the 1960s, he became president of Wavetek, a small electronic instrument company, growing its revenues from $400,000 to $85 million in 20 years.
Today, Thornton is chairman of the board of directors of Mitek Systems, where his knowledge about product lifecycles and ability to talk straight has benefited the company tremendously and has led this year to a proposed merger/reverse acquisition with Parascript LLC, located in Boulder, Colo.
Thornton's wife Sally -- historian, member of several nonprofit and for profit boards and an outstanding community member in her own right -- has given back to the community in many ways perhaps the most lasting being the naming grant for The UCSD Thornton Hospital, which opened in 1993. Together with Sally, he founded Thornton Winery in Temecula in 1988.