GTK-ThorntonJewels of San Diego

Sally and John are two of the most recognized, respected and loved philanthropists in our region and have given generously and tirelessly to improve the lives of every person in our city.


John McBride Thornton, a native of Long Beach, California, received a B.A. from Pomona College, and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. As a naval officer, he served aboard a destroyer picket ship off Korea and the Formosa patrol with a final rank of lieutenant. After leaving the service, John held various positions; he started a small manufacturing company, a real estate development company and taught at UCSD Extension.

In 1965, Thornton became President of Wavetek, a small electronic instrument company. Over the next 20 years, while he served as President and Chairman of the Board, he grew the company exponentially and in 1976, the Thorntons became the largest stockholders of Micom Systems. Currently John is Chairman of the Board of Mitek Systems and Thornton Winery; and is a Trustee Emeritus, San Diego Zoological Society and has been honored countless times, most recently by the Boy Scouts of America.

Sally Bullard Thornton, fourth generation San Diegan, has a Stephens College B.A. and a University of San Diego M.A. and is an award-winning, published author. Active in business, she was a Board Member of Micom Systems, Solectek, Chairman of the Board of Medical Materials Corp. and on the Mitek Systems Board. Along with John and their son Steve, they also own Thornton Winery.

Sally has been intimately involved with countless charitable organizations, among them: the San Diego County Crime Stoppers Board, UCSD Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center Advisory Board, Trustee, Stephens College, Columbia, Missouri, San Diego Crippled Children Society, California State Women’s Committee and San Diego Symphony Women’s Committee. Sally is Founding Chairman and creator of the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County’s “Gingerbread City.”

Additionally, Sally was Honorary Co – Chairman of the San Diego Air and Space Museum and the USS Midway Museum two-evening American Patriot Awards Reception and Gala, Founding Chairman of the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank “Fashion Plates” and Honorary Chair of St. Madeleine Sophie’s Center “Haute with Heart.” She was chosen as one of the Girl Scouts “San Diego’s 10 Cool Women,” and was Honorary Chairman of The Gold Diggers “Hats Off to San Diego.” This year, Sally is one of the Honorary Chairs for the Arc of San Diego’s Jewels of San Diego Gala.

Their generosity surrounds us and can be seen in places such as Thornton Hospital, the Thornton Rotunda at the San Diego Museum of Art, and The Thornton Theater at the San Diego Historical Society just to name a few.

The Thornton Winery in Temecula not only produces award-winning and premium varietal wine, it hosts a successful summer Champagne Jazz Series jazz concert series. Sally, John and Steve attend every event and greet guests. Sally takes great pride in personally introducing the artists before each concert, and has done so for the past 25 years.

Their work, philanthropic and event schedules, leaves many wondering, “How do they do it?” With 60 years of marriage it takes deep love, admiration and respect. Sally gets her energy from her daily one hour walks, enjoys sashimi, vegetables and frozen yogurt; maybe her health secret lies in the 70% cacao chocolate she has every morning after breakfast! John clears his mind on the waters around San Diego, as he loves to sail.