WPI Encourages That Entrepreneurial Spirit

Worcester's Allen D. Berry Will Serve as the 1999-2000 Resident Entrepreneur

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - In the late 1800s, Worcester Polytechnic Institute got its start when two of the preeminent entrepreneurs in the region, John Boynton and Ichabod Washburn, decided to educate young people to fulfill the industrial needs of the times.

WPI continues to build on that legacy, and McRae C. Banks is the latest force behind that spirit. Adding to his titles of Henry C. Stoddard professor and management department head, Banks' new job is director of WPI's Entrepreneurs Collaborative. His goal is to develop and sponsor programs and create incentives to foster entrepreneurship at WPI.

"WPI is creating a culture among students and faculty that recognizes that unless new scientific and technological ideas lead to products or services that survive in the marketplace, such ideas do not fully contribute to national wealth or improve human well-being," said WPI Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs John F. Carney III in announcing Banks' new job in June. "I am confident that under Mac Banks' leadership, entrepreneurship at WPI and the larger community will grow to achieve these objectives."

Banks aims to take advantage of the wealth of inventiveness found among WPI students.

"Our students do a tremendous amount of creative work, but very few go on to become entrepreneurs," he noted. "We are asking ourselves, why is that? After all, WPI has a strong history of entrepreneurship, and we want to reinvigorate that."

One way Banks aims to revitalize that legacy is to welcome Allen D. Berry, a marketing and operating executive and resident of Worcester, to the entrepreneur-in-residency program.

For the past several years, WPI has brought industry leaders to the University for a one-year collaboration.

Berry, who has had a 30-year career as a senior level marketing executive and acquisition/manufacturing consultant, will teach a class called "Planning New Ventures," among other contributions to the program.

WPI's newest resident entrepreneur worked most recently at Anderson Products Inc. He has led companies such as Davies Molding Co., a division of HEIDO Inc., and Chroma Corp., serving as president and in other top executive positions. He has earned a B.S. degree from the University of Utah and a J.D. degree from Northwestern University School of Law and has served on the boards of directors of numerous companies and organizations.

Berry looks forward to guiding young entrepreneurs with big ideas.

"The level of creativity they can bring to a company is virtually unknown to them," Berry said. "So their value to industry is very high, higher than they know."

Created in late 1993 by former University Relations Vice President Donald F. Berth and Management Professor Arthur Gerstenfeld, WPI's Entrepreneurs Collaborative was designed to focus on combining scientific and technological study with business opportunity. Since then, the collaborative has developed a highly popular introductory course, a minor course of study and the entrepreneur-in-residence program, bringing experts to WPI to share their knowledge. As the collaborative continues to grow, an array of projects has involved WPI undergraduates with entrepreneurs in a variety of business settings. To date, about 150 undergraduates have participated in at least one element of the collaborative's offerings.

Diran Apelian, WPI's Howmet Professor of Engineering, has served as director of the collaborative for the past year, providing leadership following the retirement of Donald F. Berth.

Last year, marketing executive Robin Bruhjell Brass, the owner of Creative Financial Services, a Washington, Conn.-based company, was WPI's entrepreneur-in-residence. Earlier residents include Rolf Jensen, who developed the nation's largest consulting practice in fire protection engineering, and Robert J. Harvey, a successful biomedical engineer who co-founded Thoratec Laboratories Corp.

With the leadership of Banks and the help of Berry, WPI's Entrepreneurs Collaborative aims to grow stronger with new programs and initiatives to combine scholarly and business interests.

WPI, founded in 1865, is renowned for its project-based curriculum. Under the WPI Plan, students integrate classroom studies with preprofessional research projects conducted on campus and around the world.