Earl and Suzette Rennison (L), Colin and Erika Angle.
PHOTOS: MARC LONGWOOD, KEN RICHARDSON
An Education Within Reach
Earl earned a BS in electrical engineering from the University of California, Davis and an SM in media arts and science from MIT in 1995. Suzette graduated from Menlo College and earned an MBA from Golden Gate University, and has worked in telecom and financial services, most recently as vice president of sales for GE Money. Earl, a serial entrepreneur, created and sold two technology companies, Perspecta, sold to Excite@Home, and Trovix, sold to Monster Worldwide.
Earl: “When I was nine years old, I had an egg business, Earl’s Eggs. I wanted to collect the eggs of each individual chicken and document the egg production under varying conditions and measure the impact. Later in my career, I built companies focused on data analytics.
“At Trovix, we put together a model sales pipeline and I pushed the team to collect data about each stage and to vary conditions — to run a marketing campaign or make a change in operations — and then see the impact. It was a data-driven business. Now, if you’re not running a data-driven business, you’re behind the times.
“Ever since I can remember, I wanted to go to MIT. It captured my imagination as the top school in the world for computer technology. But my family didn’t think they could afford to pay the MIT tuition. So I went to UC Davis, and after working at IBM and the Stanford Research Institute, I applied to MIT for graduate school.
“Being at MIT was a transformative, even magical experience. It expanded my ability to think about great big complex topics. People at MIT really think about big problems, they don’t just theorize about them. They demonstrate what is feasible or what will be feasible in the future. MIT is about doing, showing, demonstrating. Don’t just tell me about something or talk about something, but show me.
“With this scholarship gift, we want to help a student who has the desire to go to MIT but whose family is concerned they can’t afford it. We want to show that MIT is within reach.”
— Laurie Everett
The Country’s Best Hope
Colin and Erika Angle recently established a fund at MIT to support innovation. Colin, who cofounded iRobot in 1990 and is CEO, earned an SB from MIT in 1989 and the SM in 1990. Erika, who earned an SB from MIT in 2004 and a PhD from Boston University School of Medicine, is the founder and executive chairman of Science from Scientists, a nonprofit that brings scientists into classrooms. She is also cofounder and CEO of Counterpoint Health Solutions, a biotech company aimed at preventing chronic diseases.
Colin: “Innovation is the country’s best hope to maintain and improve its standard of living, and it is near and dear to our hearts. It has dramatically and positively impacted both our lives. MIT innovates better than any other university in the world. We wanted to give back in a way that facilitates MIT’s leading role in birthing new companies. As an MIT undergraduate, the idea that entrepreneurship is for other people is dismissed quickly. You think, ‘Gee, if he could do it, why can’t I?'”
Erika: “Small business, which grows from innovation, is a unique asset in this country. It’s a way for people to start from all sorts of different beginnings to make something of themselves. That is something that should not be lost. There is something about MIT that breeds entrepreneurs. The people here are independent and self-motivated, and want to leave a lasting impact. And it isn’t just the faculty, but the student body itself. As an undergraduate I met people my own age who were [starting companies] and succeeding, and who were willing to offer advice and suggestions. I hope that our gift will help the Institute continue to be the kind of place that draws talented people who are interested in entrepreneurship and helps foster the skills needed to become successful.”
— Elizabeth Thomson