Ray Stata says that if you want to live a happy, productive life, what you need is to be honest.

“If you take responsibility for your happiness, keep your word, and deal with people above-board,” he says, “your life just works better than if you cheat and lie.”

During this decade, Stata gave MIT the seed money to launch the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science, which recently moved to Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, but which exists only in cyberspace.

“MIT was searching for ways to teach students about the dilemmas they face as practicing engineers and how to think about them in an ethical context. I thought it was very important,” says Stata, who long has been interested in ethics.

He grew up in Oxford, Pa., a rural farm community southwest of Philadelphia, where the people had a deep respect for hard work and got great satisfaction from a job well done. The folks treated others fairly, had a sense of right and wrong, and took responsibility for their lives. “Their values rubbed off on me,” he says.

“The behavior of my neighbors and friends set a pattern of trusting relationships, honesty, and hard work. These American values were manifest in the way people lived their lives,” says Stata, who adds that at MIT he learned more about discipline and hard work. It was perfect training for what was to follow.

In 1962, Stata and two MIT friends co-founded Solid State Instruments. Then, the next year, Stata co-founded Analog Devices in Norwood, Ma., the company where he was president, then CEO, and now is chairman. Analog manufactures semiconductors specialized for processing analog-based information and signals. There are 7500 employees and sales total $1.25 billion.

Making a difference

Recently Ray Stata and his wife, Maria, gave $25 million to MIT to build the Ray and Maria Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences. The couple are among the most generous living donors to the Institute.

“You look around at things that make a difference in the world and try to use your resources to further what you feel is important,” he says. “MIT’s ability to move mankind along its trail of progress is impressive. If you’re going to help a place improve its excellence and impact on the world, you can’t find a better place. Besides, MIT made an investment in me; now it’s time to pay it back with a suitable return.”

Stata says that MIT was the best thing that ever happened to him.

“MIT had an incredible influence on my life. I came out of a small town without a lot of role models professionally, and then I came into this wonderful world of MIT. It set standards, aspirations and ambitions for me I couldn’t have had without that kind of exposure.”

Establishing values

Back in Oxford, Pa., his parents weren’t churchgoers but his grandparents were and he noticed that. “That part of the country is very heterogeneous in terms of religion,” he says. “We had Nazarenes, Quakers, Amish, Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and when I was growing up, I wanted to know what’s this religion all about?”

But as Stata searched religion for answers he found few, so eventually he set out to find his own philosophy for living. “What I did discover was what works effectively in life,” says Stata, adding that establishing strong values is the surest way to have a successful life.

“What evolved out of all the questions was a belief system that when your honest, responsible, and trustworthy, your life works better than when you are not. If you just live a responsible life and meet your commitments, that’s the most important thing you can do for yourself and for others.”

Having led a company for over 30 years, Stata now says that the true test of leadership is if people trust you and trust your integrity.

“And it’s not just true for individuals, but it’s true of groups and companies,” he says. “The place to start if you want to have success in your relationships is to build them on trust. And trust is built on sincerity, truthfulness, competence, and reliability.”

He says that one of his inherent assets as a leader is that people trust him. Those who know him well say they trust him because they know they can.

At Analog Devices, Stata says, the company is searching for ways to help people build trustful relationships. One approach is to train people to become better speakers and listeners. “The extent to which people believe you understand where they’re coming from is the extent to which they trust you will be responsive to their concerns.”

“We’re not born good listeners, he says, so developing good listening skills is a prerequisite to building trustful, high-quality relationships.

What makes integrity integrity, he says, is living so your actions are consistent with your values and principles. “We’re often tempted to stray from our values, but you stay the course, because in the last analysis, you know it’s best for your life.

“I keep coming back to the issue of trust. The most important driving principle is to conduct yourself in a way that you’re always winning the trust and confidence of the people and organizations with which you’re engaged. If you could do just one thing,” he says, “it’s winning that trust.”