An enthusiasm for what's "cutting edge" in technology has molded Jon Gruber's life, and has now made its mark on MIT OpenCourseWare.
Gruber, an entrepreneur who is the president of Gruber & McBaine Capital Management, the company he founded in 1987, has been a consultant to government clients, a tech analyst, and now an investment advisor focused largely on technology stocks. In fact, he is known in some circles as "the father of technology investing."
Recently, he decided to give a $1 million gift to MIT OpenCourseWare, an unprecedented act of generosity for MIT's global initiative that is committed to publishing virtually all of MIT's course materials freely and openly for the benefit of mankind.
A MIT Class of 1964 alum and generous supporter of MIT (in 1998, Gruber had established a career development professorship at the MIT Sloan School of Management), Gruber wanted to give MIT a large gift as part of his 40th MIT reunion celebration in summer 2004... But he was not sure where he wanted to direct that gift.
A conversation with former MIT President Charles M. Vest tipped the balance in favor of designating his latest gift to OCW. "(OpenCourseWare) was a most distinct idea - something that no one else has done," Gruber said. "And it was clearly one of Chuck Vest's favorites, too. There was no ambiguity there. He was very, very upbeat about it."
Upbeat for good reason: With 1550 courses published thus far, OCW is already helping to make the world a better place. An example: University faculty in Baghdad are using it as a model while they work to rebuild their country's education system.
Gruber's gift will support the development and open publication of course materials in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science - his undergraduate major - and also in MIT's various programs in the visual arts.
"I chose visual arts because of my family," he explained. "My mother and brother are both artists and photographers, and my sister is in the arts and singing, so my father and I are the only ones in the 'other world.'" (Gruber's father was an engineer from Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University.)
Gruber and his wife, Linda, live in the San Francisco Bay Area and are patrons of several arts organizations there. The couple's daughter, Lindsay, holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia; son Wyatt, a Duke University grad, also holds a degree from the MIT Sloan School.