Randall Whaley was a man of ideas and actions, and it's easy to see why his name represents the highest honor a business incubator can achieve.
He began his career in the physics department at Purdue University, working his way up from graduate assistant to professor to associate dean. While there, he revealed the entrepreneurial zeal that would later serve business incubation. He helped perfect American radar devices to detect German submarines in the Atlantic Ocean during World War II. Concerned about cholesterol, he invented a device that could measure the levels of fat in pigs without slaughtering them. He moved in 1960 to Wayne State University in Detroit and in 1965 to the University of Missouri at Kansas City.
In 1970 he moved to the University City Science Center (UCSC) in Philadelphia, a nonprofit science center owned by a consortium of educational and medical institutions that provided office and laboratory space to scores of companies. A colleague once said he was responsible for UCSC whole cloth. It may have been an exaggeration, but without a doubt, this enthusiastic and tenacious physicist-turned-business-leader deserves all the credit for dramatically turning it around. When he took the helm, the Center was losing $30,000 a month. It had no money in the bank, and its major tenant was moving out. Possessed of relentless optimism, Whaley slowly reversed the Center's fortunes. Under his leadership, it grew into a research park encompassing nine buildings and employing more than 5,000 people.
Whaley brought that same vision to NBIA when he became the board's first chairman in 1985. He quickly became a leader in the business incubation movement, when the concept was brand new. He served as board chairman until 1988, leaving behind a legacy of hard work, dedication and prestige. Two years after his death in 1989, NBIA created an award to recognize the highest achievement in business incubation and named it the Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year Award.
"He was an extraordinary human being, the most energetic person I've ever come upon, the most imaginative," William Evan, a long-time friend of Whaley, said of Whaley in The Philadelphia Inquirer in 1989. Others who knew him have called him a genius, a one-of-a-kind human being who really cared about people and was never afraid of failure.
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