A Publication for West Coast Alumni and Friends
Overseeing the "Soul of Silicon Valley"
"Never doubt that a small, committed team
can change the world. Indeed, it's the only
thing that ever has."
The computer mouse. Laundry detergent. Cash management accounts. These are just a few of the innovations that sprang from the minds of the innovators at SRI International, an independent, nonprofit global research institute in Menlo Park, Calif., that has been called the "Soul of Silicon Valley."
As SRI's president and CEO, Curt Carlson '67 helps make it possible for 1,300 talented, energetic staffers worldwide to keep coming up with ways to change the world for the better. "At SRI," he says, "we look for people who passionately champion an idea--an important need, not just an interesting problem--for our clients and with our partners."
Carlson traces his own creativity and passion back to his childhood in Cranston, R.I., where his father worked as a draftsman and his mother, who he describes as an outgoing, adventuresome woman, was a secretary. His mother's "let's try it" spirit and his father's "get it done" attitude blended in Carlson's curious mind.
"I have a project orientation," he says. "I've always looked for projects that would make a difference, and for teammates with the passion to make them happen."
As a teenager, Carlson's passion was music, and it nearly became his life's work. Encouraged by his paternal grandfather, a profess-ional musician, he took up the violin, and by the age 15 was concertmaster of the Rhode Island Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. "I was performing professionally in the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra at night, and playing gigs all around town," he says.
Although Carlson never let go of music (he plays regularly with a string quartet), his plans changed when he talked with the father of a fellow musician--a Brown University professor who was the first Ph.D. he had ever met. Suddenly, something Carlson had considered impossible--attending college--now seemed within reach.
He attended a WPI summer program for high school juniors interested in science and technology, and decided to apply the next year.
"I liked the people and the approach," Carlson recalls. "There was a nice combination of the theoretical and practical, and of individual responsibility within a team."
He began his WPI career as a mechanical engineering major, but soon switched to physics. In 1973, he earned a Ph.D. in geophysical fluid dynamics at Rutgers, then held research positions at RCA and Sarnoff Corporation, an SRI subsidiary, before assuming his current position in 1998. WPI awarded him its Robert H. Goddard Alumni Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement in June 2002, and this past summer elected him to its Board of Trustees.
A member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, Carlson helped lead two Emmy-winning teams at SRI, one that set the U.S. standard for high-definition television, and another that developed a system for measuring broadcast image quality. He has also helped form more than a dozen new companies.
"Success is about tapping into the human element--passionate, productive teams of champions," he says. "That's where we've learned to succeed at SRI. That's also the essence of the WPI Plan, and why it is so valuable for students."firstname.lastname@example.org
Maintained by: email@example.com
Last modified: May 05, 2003, 14:44 EDT