Obituary for James I. Finley

James (Jim) Ivan Finley, age 74, passed away after a battle with cancer on Sunday, October 4, 2020 at his residence in Carmichael, CA. He was surrounded by his loving family.

Jim was born August 25, 1946 in Loves Park, IL to Ivan and Etta (Dickinson) Finley. He graduated from Harlem High School in 1964 and from the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in 1968. He received his MBA from California State University Fresno (Fresno State) in 1974. He most notably served as the U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Technology from 2006 to 2009 under President George W. Bush. Prior to that, he spent over 30 years in the aerospace and defense industry sector. His experience spanned air, land, sea and space programs, including the NASA Space Shuttle Program. In 2006, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Engineering from MSOE. Jim earned the Medal for Distinguished Public Service from the Department of Defense. In 2007, he was awarded The Top Dog Alumni Award from Fresno State for his contributions to his profession, university and the community. Then in 2019, Jim was inducted into MSOE’s Alumni Wall of Distinction, a recognition of his professional contributions and dedicated service that contributed to the various academic programs at the university.

Jim spent his spare time coaching, golfing and guiding his children and grandchildren through the challenges of life. He coined the phrase “a will to change” and had a passion for solving the unsolvable and fixing the unfixable. His engineering mindset, contagious optimism and determination fueled his numerous professional accomplishments as well as imbued his children with “you can do anything you put your mind to” mentality. Jim was a man of faith, dedicated father, husband, brother and an American patriot.

James is survived by his wife, Sharon Bormann Finley of Carmichael, CA; sister, Marie Berridge (Ed) of Machesney Park, IL; five sons, Ben Finley (Victoria) of Morristown, NJ, James Wood (Tracy) of Arroyo Grande, CA, Dan Finley (Virginia) of Chappaqua, NY, Chris Finley (Ursula) of Kensington, MD, Alex Finley (Kelli) of Minneapolis; his daughter, Kate O’Malley (John) of Woodland, CA; his ten grandchildren, Hannah, Emma, Aidan, Abigail, Marco, Warner, Harper, Vincent, Rosella and Sawyer and several nieces and nephews. 

He was preceded by his parents, Ivan and Etta Finley, and his first wife, Vicki Lynn Finley (Hardman) in 2004.

The immediate family plans to hold a private memorial service. Another announcement will be published in the future for public celebration of his life. Those wishing to send a donation in Jim’s memory are requested to make a donation for cancer research or to support wounded veterans and their families.

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