Every new graduate needs a first job. When Bruce Blomstrom completed his Institute management studies in 1962, he got a pretty good one: assistant secretary of commerce and industry in the newly independent nation of Uganda.
That position was lined up by Sloan School professor Carroll Wilson ’32 through his short-lived but groundbreaking MIT African Fellows program, which mobilized students to fill operational positions in postcolonial governments across Africa in the early 1960s. Blomstrom was one of 80 fellows who applied their knowledge on behalf of fledgling nations; his role included advising officials, attending international conferences, and helping negotiate multilateral agreements.
The job also gave him and his wife, Anne, a taste for international life and culture and set the stage for a career in health-care management that included stints in Japan and South Africa. He has headed NMC Homecare, Clinishare, and Guardian Products, and he served as founding chair of Nanostream, a manufacturer of microfluidic instruments for drug discovery.
“I was very fortunate—Carroll was an extraordinary individual who saw a need for young MBAs and lawyers in Africa as the colonial powers were leaving,” recalls Blomstrom. “MIT teaches you to go into new situations and manage effectively by understanding what’s going on and looking for solutions. My African experience taught me that young people coming out of MIT can do almost anything.”
That perspective has motivated Blomstrom to help fund MIT’s Carroll Wilson Awards, which to date have supported 75 graduate students in exploration of important societal problems or opportunities with international dimensions.
He has also served as president of the “terrific” Class of 1959 and the MIT Club of Southern California, and he is currently an Alumni Association board member.
Today, the Blomstroms live in Southern California—not far from their son, daughter, and three grandchildren—and pursue a longtime love of art collecting. Bruce is a member and former director of the Pasadena Angels investment group and president of the Pasadena Bioscience Collaborative, an incubator for life science startups.
“In life sciences, it takes years to determine if you have an effective product,” he explains. “We provide a low-cost place where companies can get started—shared-use lab facilities, offices, and the opportunity to bounce ideas around. I didn’t know how it would do when we started in 2004, but it’s been quite a success and very helpful to the Pasadena area. I feel good about that.”