There were five men that played a major role in my professional development. I just learned that one of them passed on last year, Mort Ruderman. I worked for four of these men but not for Mort. Mort was a friend who played a major role in my professional development over a fifteen year span. I suspect that everyone that has some significant professional success can point to a few people that made that success possible. I know that I would not have achieved the things I achieved if it was not for these five men. The dates next to the names are the dates in which these men played a major role in my life.
Joe Kamiya, scientist and pioneer in bio-feedback, UCSF Medical School (1966-1969)
Joe recognized my capabilities and gave me a job as a research assistant when I was just 21 years old and had only a high school degree which I obtained only by testing out from a private school to which my parents paid a lot of money. When I went to work for Joe, I was the night manager at a Pizza Parlor. In the three years I worked for Joe, I developed the foundation of my technical knowledge. Joe taught me the concept of digital logic, analog signal processing, statistics and the scientific method. I learned computer programing on my own. I tried to take a Civil Service Test to become qualified as a Systems Analyst but was turned down because I did not have the per-requiste math courses. Ironically, I was asked to participate as one of the administer of the test since I was already doing that job. It was during this period that I fell in love with computer technology, a love that I still feel every day. Joe gave me the opportunity to both learn to design hardware from the transistor up and also to learn to program from binary to Fortran compliers. He was one of my greatest teachers.
Paul Hugenholtz, founder and director of the Thoraxcenter, Erasmus University, Rotterdam (1969-1974)
Paul had been working in Boston and was exposed to computer technology at MIT and had been asked by the Dutch Government to return to Holland and create a new institute focused on all aspects of Cardio-Vascular medicine, which would be called The Thoraxcenter. Paul had a vision about how to integrate computer technology into all aspects of the new center and in particular how to incorporate it into patient care. He was looking for someone that could build out the computer capabilities and had identified me . Even though I was only 23 years old, I was one of the few people in the world that could develop hardware and software for real time physiological signal processing which was the essential ingredient to creating the kinds of systems that Hugenholtz envisioned . So I was offered a wonderful position at the Thoraxcenter managing the computer department. There were actually two departments reporting to me. One was focused on patient care and was part of the academic hospital associated with the University. The other was a research group and was part of the Medical School. Paul taught me how to lead. He demonstrated that if you had conviction, courage, and the ability to motivate and inspire, there were almost no limits to what you could do. It is hard to imagine how this man could have put so much of his reputation in the hands of a 24 year old skinny guy with long hair, a beard, and no formal eduction. Paul was incremental in developing my academic credentials. He listed me as a co-author on many important research papers and was a co-author on papers I wrote. Paul sponsored me for my appointment to the academic staff at the University. At the age of 25, I had a position equivalent to Assistant Professor and would have been made an associate professor if I had stayed a bit longer.
Ken Olsen, Founder and President of Digital Equipment Corp (1979-1983)
I joined Digital when I was 34 years old. About a year later, Ken Olsen, the CEO, gave me the opportunity to use all my creativity and leadership/management skills. Ken taught me to trust in myself and my intuition. Also, I observed how difficult it was to keep a large organization functioning and focused from Ken’s own struggles to do that. He was a complicated and difficult person. In many ways, he and Steve Jobs had much in common. I thought a lot about adding him to my list of mentors and choose to do so not so much because he gave me a major break by reaching down into the engineering organization and putting me in charge of a very significant initiative, but more because of the quiet times I spent with him alone in his office or on the phone when he shared with me his thoughts and visions about the importance of products and,in particular, of their design. In the almost four years I worked at Digital, I was promoted four times. It was also the first time that I interacted with the press and with financial analysts. By this time, the beard was replaced with a pretty funny mustache.
Les Vadasz, member of the founding team of Intel, board member and President of Intel Capital (1984-1999)
I was already 39 when Les hired me. I owe this man who remains my dear friend, so very much. Les, thought me to be disciplined and realistic. He helped me develop the management skills that would allow me run an extremely successful venture activity. He developed in my the skill to navigate in very complex organization, Intel. He got the top management of Intel to understand that someone so different then they could make major contributions to the growth of the company which resulted in my election as a Corporate Vice President. which was frankly, almost unbelievable. At that time, Intel was one of the most successful companies in the world and had less than 40 officers. I was the only one that did not run a large organization. While, Les recognized my talents , most importantly, he recognized my weakness and worked with me to address them. He taught me to be patient and realistic when it came to expecting change at Intel. Sometimes, I think he was too successful in this because, I wish I could have impacted Intel more. He helped me understand that I was now a manager and not just a leader. That I had to work with my staff to develop their skills and I had to give them the opportunity to develop and grow. He tried to teach me humility by his own personal example but I probably did not do so well on that lesson. Note the lack of facial hair.
And finally, my dear friend,Mort Ruderman (1968-1983)
I met Mort when I was still at the Langley Porter Institute, working for Joe. Our lab used PDP-7 from Digital Equipment Corp. Mort was the head of the Medical Product Line at Digital. He came out to visit with us in 1968.. At the end of that year, I had decided to accept the opportunity to join Paul Hugenholtz’s at the Thoraxcenter which had already decided to use Digital Equipment computers. In March of 1969, I left my position with Joe Kamiya and travelled to Maynard ,Mass, to the headquarters of Digital Equipment Corp for some additional training. There, I met Mort again. He invited me to his home where he introduced me to his wife Marcia and their three young children. That was the start of our friendship. Mort confided to me that he was leaving Digital to found a company called Meditech with Neil Pappalardo and Curt Marble who had developed the MUMPS programing language while at MIT. Mumps was an iterative language, much like Basic and later Java. The company was to focus on medical applications. It became very successful.
Mort and I continued our friendship. I often visited him when I was in the Boston area and stayed at his home Lynnfield or his family beach home. Mort would sometimes take me to Malden MA where he grew up. His mother was still alive and we visited with her. He even took me to his synagogue, Congregation Beth Israel of Malden.
Israel-Mort becomes my coach
Mort was a strong supporter of the State of Israel. He encouraged me to think about immigrating there from Holland with my wife and two sons. When we decided to take that step, I had to make a decision between continuing in the academic world or moving to the business world. By that time, I had been doing a lot of consulting with companies like Digital and HP. But I did not know much about business. An American medical electronics company called Mennen Greatbach had an Israeli subsidiary, called MG Electronics run by a man named Moshe Barone. It was located in Rehovot in a science park near the Weismann Institute. Interestingly, Jay Ruderman, one of Mort’s children, currently lives in Rehovot . Mennen offered me the opportunity to start up a new business as part of MG Electronics to provide the entire company with computer based products. I had significant concerns about doing this because it was a big deal for me to give up my academic credentials especially after having achieved them without a college degree. I decided that my contribution to Israel would be great (as well as my pay, I have to admit) if I went into business. I did manage to be appointed an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Tel Aviv University Medical School. By the way, I am only 29 years old at this point in my life. Mort is 38 years old. Mort encouraged me to make the decision to go into industry. I told him I would but only agree if he would spend time with me in Israel and teach me business. He did.
Once I relocated to Israel and set up the Mennen Medical Computer Division at MG Electronics. Mort came over and spent a few weeks with me. He taught me about profit and loss and balance sheets. We looked through annual reports from public companies and he would show me how you could see if a company was doing well or not from the numbers. We spent time talking about marketing and sales. My business experience was very limited. After all, I had spent the last eight years in the academic world and prior to that my professional experience was waiting tables, being a steward in the Merchant Marines and flipping Pizzas. Poor Mort, had to give me a MBA in a few weeks.
When ever I came to the Boston area, I would meet with him and often stayed with him. By this time he was much less active in Meditech and had move on to real estate. Mort invested in a chain of racquetball courts. I remember him explaining to me how that business worked. He said that he was not sure how long racquetball would be popular so he had the buildings designed so they could be converted into warehouse space. That turned out to be an excellent decision.
Mort helps me move to the USA and joining Digital Equipment Corporation
In 1979, my former wife and I decided to leave Israel and move to the USA with our three children, two sons born in Holland and one daughter born in Israel. I had many connections at Digital Equipment Corp which is where I wanted to work. I felt it was time to leave the medical field and focus on computer technology, a decision I have never regretted. Mort encouraged his contacts at Digital to invite me to visit from Israel. I spent a week interviewing for a position and accepted one in Central Engineering which resulted in my running the Low End Hardware group soon after I arrived.
After that, Mort and I had less and less contact. He and his wife Marcia moved to South Florida. I would get calls from him from time to time.
Mort passes but his legacy lives on
Today, I learned that he died about a year ago at the age of 75. His son, Jay, who I remember well, made a very moving video which includes an interview with Mort. It can be seen here. I cried watching it. Mort talks about the importance of helping others and of giving back. I have tried to be a good mentor to many people and I know that Mort was my inspiration for that. Mort gave a great deal to charity and set up the Ruderman Family Foundation. He was a real Mensch. Thank you Mort for all that you did for me and all that you did for others.
Morton E. Ruderman, of Boca Raton, FL, who co-founded global health care technology firm MEDITECH, and who later became one of the Jewish community’s leading philanthropists, passed away Wednesday at age 75 after a lengthy illness. His charitable endeavors included the endowment of a Jewish Studies chair at Northeastern University and the creation of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which is focused on the issues of disability and continuity in the Jewish community.
Mort, as he was known by many, was born and raised in Malden and graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in electrical engineering. After service in the Army as a second lieutenant, he became Digital Equipment Corporation’s first ever medical technology salesperson. He founded MEDITECH with three other partners in 1969, and the company went on to enormous success. Mort later founded Cres Development Company, a real estate development firm, and several other companies. Mort became a mentor to many young business people, using his wisdom to help them launch their own ventures. He viewed as his greatest achievement, however, the work he did to give back to a Jewish community that he believed gave him so much.
Philanthropy became his focus in his later years, as he and his wife Marcia, supported many causes in the community, particularly in organizations that helped people with disabilities and those less fortunate in society. Their creation of the Ruderman Family Foundation provided a means to focus their philanthropy on innovative, new approaches to enabling Jewish people with disabilities to realize full inclusion in their community.
He leaves three children and ten grandchildren.