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“My mom always said that going to MIT would open doors forever, and it certainly has,” says Alex Laats. Along with his wife, Laura, he recently established a scholarship at MIT to support students studying science and engineering, with a focus on cancer research.

“We need more U.S. citizens pursuing science and engineering, and if they pursue a career in cancer research as well, that would be fantastic,” he says. The couple established the scholarship to remember Jim Sole (shown in the snapshot), a close friend and MIT classmate of Laats who died of cancer in 2002.

The son of an engineer, Alex was raised in Winchester, MA, where he excelled in math and science. He says he enrolled at the U.S. Naval Academy “because it was the least-known path,” but he “just wasn’t passionate about it,” so he transferred to MIT, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in physics and math in 1989. He went on to get a degree from Harvard Law School in 1992.

First, he landed a job at a Boston law firm that represented high-tech corporations. In 1994, he joined MIT as a technology licensing officer, and in 1996, he founded NBX, one of the first business telephone systems that ran over the Internet. After selling NBX to 3Com in 1999, he launched Informio, a provider of wireless Web services, and in 2002, he became a venture partner with Commonwealth Capital Ventures. Now at BBN Technologies, which is in the process of being acquired by Raytheon, he is president of the company’s Delta Division, which is responsible for creating new businesses.

Laura Laats earned degrees in speech pathology from the University of Vermont and Emerson College and works at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, MA. Alex and Laura were married in 1990 and have three children. Together, the family enjoys swimming on Cape Cod and skiing in Vermont.

“Once you reach the point where you’re no longer struggling to pay the bills, it’s important to make productive use of your earnings,” Alex says. “Philanthropy in the area of education is key. Without gifts, MIT wouldn’t be the world leader it is.

“I didn’t love MIT as an undergrad,” he continues, “but I gained a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for it later. After I worked at MIT, and I started creating new businesses based on technology, I realized how lucky I was to have gone to the Institute.”

For giving information, contact Stuart Krantz: 617-253-5905; skrantz@mit.edu. Or visit giving.mit.edu.

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Credit: Richard Howard

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