Harry's Bio

I was raised on the Amargosa River in a boxcar parked at various sidings along the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad. The T&T ran along most of the length of the Amargosa. Our living quarters were part of a string of railroad cars for lumber, tools, sleeping, eating and a water-tank car supporting a "Bridge and Building Gang." The string of cars was called an "Outfit." We moved every few weeks to repair a bridge washed out or strengthen a weakened road bed.

The railroad was created to transport minerals out of Death Valley and central Nevada. At one time, it extended from Ludlow California on the Santa Fe to Tonopah Nevada in the "Gold Country." A perrenial money loser, the T&T was shut down in 1940. In 1942, the railroad was pulled up and shipped with all its rolling and maintenance stock to Egypt where it provided transportation and aided in the defeat of Rommel's army. Equipment that was unusable was scrapped. Today, one has to know where to look to find any trace of the old roadbed. In many places, all trace has disappeared.

Among my earliest memories are rides on a putt-putt-rail-road "motor car" with my father to a bridge washed out by a flooding Amargosa. Four decades later, another Amargosa flood took his life. He dared the deep waters all of his life but in the end could not walk upon them. By then he was a businessman like his father before him. And so was my brother.

Life on the Amargosa was harsh by modern standards. Summer temperatures of 110-120 F by day were/are common. No running water or electricity. No sanitary facilities beyond an outhouse and not even that at some sidings. (Distance was modesty.) For a young boy, playmates beyond a little brother were a rare treat and that only happened when a bridge went out near a settlement. Self reliance and independence happen early to nomads on the desert. Such were my roots.

From there to here has been a long journey, both in time and in concept. After five years in the mines and losing a partner to a cave-in, I realized that a miner's life, while honest, was just not for this string bean. Lauren Wright, while a grad student at Cal Tech, encouraged, my natural curiosity in geology. So I pulled up stakes and went to San Jose State College (now University) and eventually Stanford. I was still a poor, naive boy in more ways than one, earning a freelance living around getting a formal education. For my Stanford opportunity I shall forever be indebted to Professor Cutler Shepard. I am also deeply indebted to Helen Ogston, my high school teacher, who enabled the whole thing by giving me visions of what the outside world is like. So also for Professor Norman Dolloff of San Jose State who made my transition to Stanford possible in the first place.

In industry at last, my transition to an intellectual worker was immediate—getting out of debt was not. It was another 14 years before I became a "proper" scientist complete with credential (Ph.D.). After yet another 14 years I reverted to nature by co-founding a new company—and serving not only as corporate officer, process designer and operator, but also technology forecaster, quality department, and janitor.

Eleven months passed before sales covered direct costs—the red ink on the balance sheet got a whole lot redder before turning black. But orders trended upward, slowly at first, then gathered steam. Seven and a half years later we sold our interests. To that point, annual sales growth averaged 76%. Once monthly earnings broke into the black, we never had a losing quarter. The keys to that success were sound new technology, a niche market, tight financial management, teamwork and good old blood, sweat and tears—and, yes, a bit of luck. The whole operation was bootstrap. That business is now a medium-size enterprise of some 100 employees in two states. With a strong market position, modern facilities and and new products coming on, it has a bright future.

Along the way eighteen patents issued bearing my name. and two more are applied for. Eleven of my inventions went commercial. Some 40 publications, 21 presentations at professional society meetings, a like number of consulting contracts and seven experiences in litigation fill out out my curriculum vitae. My listing of significant technical achievements includes contributions to both aerospace and electronic materials and their manufacture and use as well as management innovations. The latter deal with statistical applications before the days of Six Sigma and Black Belts, hiring methodology, R&D time-to-market compression, enterprise growth in a complex business environment and team development.

Since retiring from from my day job in 2000, I have explored seven business opportunities in depth. Four were ultimately rejected, three because of personality conflicts, one because of its marginality. One, Pioneer Materials has become a modest success. One is in process development and product testing with decent prospects. One depends on the success of the previous one mentioned.

In closing, Amargosa is idealistic in concept to be sure. But there is too little idealism in the world, most of all the business world. We believe inspiration and idealism can and should go hand in hand. We can leave the world better than we found it.

> back to top