Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The loss of a leader and a pioneer, Alex d'Arbeloff

Alex d'Arbeloff, an amazing entrepreneur who did it all passed away yesterday at the age of 80. He will definitely be missed as part of the Boston community. This summary of his accomplishments was sent to all members of the MIT community on July 9, 2008:

Alexander Vladimir d'Arbeloff '49, a visionary entrepreneur who
co-founded Boston-based high-tech company Teradyne before becoming the
eighth chairman of the MIT Corporation, died peacefully on Tuesday,
July 8. He was 80.

As chairman of the MIT Corporation, d'Arbeloff provided crucial
leadership for the Calculated Risks, Creative Revolutions fundraising
campaign, which had a transformative effect on Institute--from the
physical campus to its research agenda. The campaign ushered in
cutting-edge facilities such as the Al and Barrie Zesiger Sports and
Fitness Center and the Ray and Maria Stata Center and also sparked a
new emphasis on the intersection between the life sciences and
engineering at MIT.

With his wife, Brit SM '61, d'Arbeloff created the Fund for Excellence
in MIT Education to support teaching innovations in science and
engineering. The pair also supported a professorship in the MIT
Department of Mechanical Engineering and established the d'Arbeloff
Lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.

"All of us privileged to know Alex are deeply saddened by his loss,"
said MIT President Susan Hockfield. "MIT has lost an extraordinary
friend who paired his passionate devotion to the Institute with a
brilliantly dispassionate, clear-eyed view of how it could grow even
stronger. Through the d'Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in MIT Education,
among many other gifts, Alex and Brit tapped a deep vein of creativity
that has transformed MIT. We will sorely miss his warmth, charm, humor
and remarkable gift for framing complex problems and inspiring
visionary solutions."

D'Arbeloff was born in 1927 in Paris to parents who had fled the
Russian Revolution a decade earlier, and his family led a nomadic
existence during his adolescence. As the clouds of war gathered in
Europe, the d'Arbeloffs moved to South America in 1936, to New York
two years later and to Los Angeles the following year, before
returning to New York in 1940.

After graduating from MIT with a bachelor's in management, d'Arbeloff
found that his can-do attitude didn't always sit well with
superiors. In later years he was proud to note that he was fired from
three jobs during a 10-year period, and that while serving in the
U.S. Army reserves, his commanding officer berated him for having
"antagonized every officer" at their post.

"I didn't feel I had," d'Arbeloff told an interviewer in 1997,
recalling the episode. "I didn't do it on purpose. I just wanted to do
more than they were willing to do."

In 1960, d'Arbeloff co-founded Teradyne Inc. with Nick DeWolf--a
former MIT classmate whom he had met when they had to line up
alphabetically during an ROTC class. During his tenure as president
and CEO of Teradyne, which manufactures automatic test equipment and
interconnection systems for the electronics and telecommunications
industries, the company's annual sales rose from $13 million to more
than $1 billion.

In 1997, he was named chairman of the MIT Corporation, having served
as a member since 1989. At the time, he said he was aware of the
differences between academia and the business world but preferred to
focus on the common ground they shared.

"You begin, in both cases, with talented people. Then you have to
develop an effective organization and instill a sense of mission. You
have to strive to win. And, ultimately, you have to provide something
of value to society," he said.

"MIT is a great institution, with great impact on the nation and the
world. I am truly honored to have been given this opportunity to serve
as MIT's chairman and to contribute to an institution of this level of
excellence, this magnitude, and one that has such an impact on
society."

D'Arbeloff became honorary chairman of the Corporation after stepping
down as chairman in 2003. As a professor of the practice, he taught at
the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Department of Mechanical
Engineering. D'Arbeloff also served on the board of the Whitehead
Institute for Biomedical Research.

Friends and colleagues recalled him as a dynamic personality who
constantly strove for improvement and challenged the ways in which
things are done. MIT President Emeritus Charles M. Vest said
d'Arbeloff possessed "one of the most active minds" he had ever seen.

"As chairman of the MIT Corporation, Alex properly and productively
challenged the ways in which academia functions. His rethinking of
MIT's budgeting processes was invaluable," Vest said. "He radiated
energy, loved to challenge ideas, and was as at home in a classroom as
in his board room. He left a great legacy in Boston and MIT."

D'Arbeloff was the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a fellow of
the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and a director of the Isabella
Stewart Gardner Museum. He also served on the boards of several
corporations and on the board of the Whitehead Institute, which he
chaired from 2004 to 2006.

He is survived by his wife, Brit; daughters, Katherine and Alexandra;
sons, Eric and Matthew; and six grandchildren.

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