Throughout his life, Sherwin Greenblatt has helped colleagues and organizations surpass themselves.
Greenblatt left MIT in 1964 with two electrical-engineering degrees and a penchant for business. Within months, he joined his former professor Amar Bose ‘51, SM ‘52, ScD ‘56, as the first employee of the legendary Bose Corporation. After starting as a project engineer, Greenblatt rose to become president, a title he held for 15 years. By the time he left, the corporation had grown to some 7,500 employees.
“Since I started as the first employee and grew the company to a good size, I had a wide range of experiences and exposure to different things,” he says. “I got to see how ideas develop into reality.”
In 2002 Greenblatt retired from Bose and, on advice from a colleague, started volunteering with MIT’s Venture Mentoring Service (VMS). There he was able to focus on what gratified him most about his previous work, which was helping individuals expand and pitch ideas and transforming back-of-the-envelope drafts into products. Soon Greenblatt was asked to direct the VMS–and he said yes.
Greenblatt’s part-time involvement with VMS has continued, but that’s been just the start of his service to MIT. At President Susan Hockfield’s request, he served as interim executive vice president of the Institute from 2005 to 2007 and as interim executive vice president and CEO of the Alumni Association from August 2008 to August 2009. “I feel privileged to have spent time inside MIT and not just know it from the outside,” he says.
Through his years of experience, Greenblatt has refined his definition of a good leader. “A good leader provides meaningful goals and a purpose and desire to achieve those goals,” he recently wrote. “Within that framework, good people know intuitively what their part is in attaining those goals. The leader helps those individuals to clarify, articulate, … and execute their piece and ensures that all work together so that the parts add up to the whole.”
Greenblatt and his wife, Vivian, have a daughter, who is a water resources engineer, and a son, who is a naturalist in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. And as Greenblatt began settling back into his semiretirement, he took on another role: grandfather. In May, his son’s family welcomed their first child, Bryce.