Skip to main content

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

The Passing of Harlan E. Anderson

From the President's Desk

To: The Rensselaer Community
Re: The Passing of Harlan E. Anderson

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you of the passing of Harlan E. Anderson, trustee emeritus of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Board of Trustees, on Jan. 30, 2019, at age 89. An early computer pioneer and innovator, he served as an active trustee from 1980 to 1996.

Mr. Anderson graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics and a master’s degree in physics. After graduation he was a member of the technical staff of Lincoln Laboratory at MIT for five years.

In 1957, Mr. Anderson co-founded Digital Equipment Corporation which, at its peak, grew into the second largest computer company in the world. In the late 1960s, he served as director of technology for Time Inc. He went on to have a career in small-scale venture capital for technology startups, serving on many industry and corporate boards. He also built some of the first office buildings in New Canaan, Connecticut, providing space for small businesses and organizations.

Mr. Anderson was a strong believer in education, and his philanthropy and volunteerism reflected that. In addition to serving as a trustee of Rensselaer, he was a trustee of the Norwalk Community College Foundation and a member of the Visiting Committee of the University of Illinois College of Engineering, where he was inducted into the Engineering Hall of Fame in 2010. He and his wife, Lois, sponsored the Distance Learning Center at Illinois and endowed scholarships at Rensselaer, Norwalk Community College, and Northwestern University.

Mr. Anderson was very active as a community leader in New Canaan, where he lived. He also served as a trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Harlan E. Anderson Foundation. At Rensselaer he was a member of the George M. Low ’48 Society of Patroons and a recipient of the Rensselaer Alumni Association Alumni Key Award. 

Mr. Anderson was predeceased by his wife, Lois, and is survived by his sons Brian and Gregory, his daughter Susan, and three grandchildren. 

Our deepest thoughts are with the family of Harlan Anderson, and we honor the contributions he made to both the Rensselaer community and to the world.