Bert Forbes’ friendship with Prof. Harold “Doc” Edgerton changed his life.
“Doc’s philosophy was: ‘Share information. Tell everyone what you know. If you do, you’ll make progress faster than if you hold everything in. You’ve got to be open in order to receive,'” says Forbes, adding that the late Edgerton also taught him: “Be honest. Work hard. Have fun. And always be good to people.”
It was, he says now, a blueprint for success.
To show thanks for the tremendous success that those words brought him, Forbes and his wife, Candee, recently gave $500,000 to MIT’s Edgerton Center. They also gave $1.5 million to the Ray and Maria Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences, a center designed to bring people together across disciplines and across generations. “My relationship with Doc gave us a great interest in helping other undergraduates make valuable friendships at MIT,” he says.
Forbes earned an MIT degree in electrical engineering in 1966 and a master’s from Stanford in 1967. He began as an engineer at Hewlett-Packard. Later, he and his wife, a Stanford alumna, founded Ziatech Corp., which designed and manufactured industrial-quality computers based on Intel architecture. They had offices in S. America, Europe, and Asia. In 2000, they sold the company to Intel.
Now retired, the couple loves travel and photography. They have taken pictures in Turkey, Tunisia, Iran, Burma, Uzbekistan, and elsewhere. The freedom to do what they love, they say, comes from living right and putting people first, just like Doc said.
“We ran the company for 24 years and had 210 people working for us. We hired them and provided a good working environment. We knew them all by first name. We knew their kids and spouses. It was like family.
“Doc was right about people,” he says. “He taught by example that real success is making friends and doing right by them.”