BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — BEVERLY — Endicott College recently dedicated its new school of business as the Curtis L. Gerrish School of Business, evidently recognizing that this is a CEO who knows the ways of commerce.
Gerrish, founder and CEO of Rochester Electronics in Newburyport, has developed an enterprise that is considered the world’s largest “continuing source” semiconductor manufacturer.
Rochester Electronics, which manufactures semiconductors that are out-of-production from the original manufacturers, owns and operates a campus of buildings in Newburyport’s Business and Industrial Park totaling more than 300,000 square feet. It employs hundreds (the exact number is confidential) and is currently hiring.
Gerrish, while a canny executive in a competitive field, is also a philanthropic leader in the causes of local education and health. His gift to Endicott resulted in the $17 million Gerrish School of Business. (Two of his granddaughters attend the Beverly college).
“Endicott is incredibly fortunate to have the support of such individuals who are dedicated to improving the learning experience of our students,” said Endicott President Richard Wylie at the school’s dedication in October.
“I think (financial) gifts should be directed to areas where it will really help,” said Gerrish, who started Rochester Electronics in 1981. “I have met many Endicott students, and I like their attitude and interest in learning.”
Gerrish has also contributed to Immaculate Conception school in Newburyport, which he attended as a child, and has been a trustee and major supporter of Anna Jaques Hospital. Gifts from his foundation have provided major funding for a breast-care center, and for a “fast-track” system that enables patients arriving at the hospital to be seen and assessed as quickly as possible.
Delia O’Connor, CEO and president of Anna Jaques, said, “Curt Gerrish has been terrifically generous to Anna Jaques Hospital, and his and his family foundation’s lifetime giving to this hospital now exceeds $1 million.
“In addition to needing the funds we have received, we at Anna Jaques have always been proud to pass the litmus test that getting a gift from Curt Gerrish requires.”
Gerrish is a graduate of Newburyport High School (’54) and Boston University. He spent much of his early career at Motorola and rose to be a successful regional sales manager.
After two decades at Motorola, he made the decision to start his own business: supplying major corporations and government agencies with end-of-life, discontinued and “mature” semiconductors.
He reasoned that many components were becoming obsolete within months after arrival — but the original manufacturer was not producing replacement parts.
More than 60 of the world’s leading manufacturers of semiconductors look to Rochester to supply components they no longer manufacture.
Thus, Rochester Electronics moved into a multimillion-dollar “niche” area that serves the largest tech buyers in the world from Intel and Texas Instruments to the federal government.
“When I was about to leave Motorola, my friends there had a kind of ‘intervention’ to urge me not to go,” Gerrish said. “But I thought there was a market for products that weren’t going to be made anymore.
“It gives me satisfaction today that we have long-standing relationships with customers who trust our work and continue to rely on our products.”
If Gerrish is a power in the manufacturing world, he is also a respected leader in local business.
He was one of the early drivers of the Newburyport Area Industrial Development (NAID), serving as president. He is also a trustee at the Institution for Savings.
“Curt has provided great leadership in the industrial park,” said Ann Ormond, president of the Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “He has been a go-to guy on industrial and park developments.”
Gerrish’s company, privately held and managed, continues to expand and innovate.
One of the factors contributing to its success appears to be his interest in education, both of his employees and young students. Rochester Electronics, for example, regularly accepts interns from Endicott.
And beyond just imparting learning, the company has hired 12 Endicott graduates to full-time positions.