Shelly Razin began his work life shoveling driveways and delivering meat on his bicycle, and he paid his own way through MIT, majoring in math. He ended up founding a hugely successful company specializing in health-care computer systems, and in 2010 he and his wife, Janet, endowed a $1 million research fellowship at MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research.
As a nonresident undergrad from Everett, Massachusetts, Razin played table tennis in the basement of Walker Memorial—and basketball on the top floor. Legendary mathematics professor Norbert Wiener “used to come and play chess with the commuters,” he recalls. Razin’s first campus attempt at entrepreneurship was collecting old tests that professors posted and turning them into study guides. He put his family to work typing in the answers—mathematical symbols and all—and made copies on mimeograph machines. Then he threw a party where guests assembled the completed tests into booklets for sale. The dean, who had shown them to the faculty, summoned Razin for a chat. “They said they were too good,” Razin recalls. “They didn’t want me to sell them.”
After graduation, Razin moved to California and started work in the software industry. At Rockwell International, he developed equations used in all loran radio receivers around the world. In 1973 he launched a new venture, Quality Systems, which provides computer systems for dentists, doctors, and hospitals. “In those days, when the minicomputer revolution hit, you could go into any field and revolutionize it,” he says. He took the company public in 1982; now it is valued at more than a billion dollars and has more than 2,300 employees worldwide. “The next big challenge is to navigate ourselves through the cloud,” he says.
Razin’s decision to endow a fellowship was inspired by his classmate Patrick McGovern ‘59, who founded the McGovern Institute. “When I went to school, I didn’t have any funds,” he says. “If I could provide scholarships for people doing work at MIT, it was a dream of mine to be able to do so. They’re doing some absolutely tremendous research.”
Razin’s wife grew up in Dorchester, but they met at a Shakey’s Pizza Parlor when they were both programmers in California. They have been married for 50 years and have two married sons and five grandchildren, all of whom live near their Laguna Beach home and love spending time on Razin’s 65-foot motor sailboat. In 2009, Razin was honored as an American Business Awards Chairman of the Year and an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
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