Starting Point

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there* is no path and leave a trail.”
--Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)

Some 25 years ago, my father and his father talked about going into business together—the bagel business. My grandfather, my Zaide, would be in charge of making the bagels; my dad would handle the rest. Having moved to Connecticut to go to school in the 1960s, my father spent years looking for a good, New York–style bagel.

Unfortunately, their good idea remained just that—a good idea. Even more unfortunate is that others have since found success in the same market. How is it we end up where we do? Is it careful planning? A chance encounter? A calculated risk?* Students come to WPI because they’re interested, generally, in science, technology, engineering, and math. And certainly, many of those students graduate and go on to lead very successful careers as engineers, scientists, and researchers within the STEM fields.

In this issue of Transformations, we focus on the stories of alumni who have taken a different, even unconventional, path. What’s the connection between a young inventor in Chicago and a pastor in Boston? A boat-builder and a venture capitalist? An alpaca breeder and an angel investor? Undoubtedly, they’re bound together by their alma mater (despite their far-flung interests, these alumni are quick to point out that they use, every day, their WPI education); but they’re also entrepreneurial by nature. Given the university’s focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and its founding principles of theory and practice, it should come as no surprise that a good number of alumni become involved in entrepreneurial endeavors— whether they’re inventors, entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs, corporate executives, board chairs, or other leaders, movers, and shakers in the global economy.* Perhaps it’s not what they foresaw when they arrived as freshmen, but, like so many of our alumni, they’re putting their knowledge into action to solve critical problems in important ways.

Indeed, the entrepreneurial spirit runs deep at WPI. You can see it in the droves of alumni involved in promising, even lucrative, ventures; in the professors whose research forms the basis of young new companies; and in the students committed to providing a forum for budding entrepreneurs to share ideas.-Cape Town, Father Pete retires, a WPI student lands a seat in the New Hampshire statehouse.* For me, landing at WPI two years ago has been inspiring, challenging, thought-provoking, and surprising. My only complaint? The bagels.

Thanks for reading.

Charna Westervelt, Editor

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