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Alumni Profile

Ronald A. Kurtz

Ronald A. Kurtz, SB ’54

President of Commerce Graphics

Ronald A. Kurtz came to MIT in 1950 and has never left. An alumnus who recognizes the value of his MIT education, he has kept up with the myriad activities at the Institute; has taken the time to identify programs and projects in which he and his wife, Carol, deeply believe; and has volunteered his time, energy, and resources to support them.

Kurtz is a graduate of MIT Sloan and also holds two MIT degrees in metallurgy, now known as material science. To this day, he still feels indebted to MIT for a graduate assistantship that enabled him to finish his education. For years, he and Carol have supported the Minority Introduction to Engineering, Entrepreneurship, and Science (MITE2S) Program, which provides a rigorous six-week summer program for talented minority students who are interested in studying and exploring careers in science and engineering. At MIT Sloan, Kurtz served on the Dean's Advisory Group and was a member of the Sloan Visiting Committee for many years. He was an early supporter of the Center for Entrepreneurship, and endowed a Professorship in Entrepreneurship. He has also provided several graduate fellowships and is a principal donor for the new MIT Sloan building, E62, which will open in Fall 2010.

A life member of the MIT Corporation, Kurtz has served on the Audit Committee, Corporation Development Committee, the Visiting Committees of the Material Sciences and Engineering Department, Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Department, and as Chair of the Architecture Department Visiting Committee. He has been a member of the Council for the Arts, the MIT Museum Advisory Committee, and the Educational Council. Kurtz received the Bronze Beaver award, the Alumni Association's highest recognition for distinguished service, in 2002 and the Marshall B. Dalton '15 award for extraordinary leadership in fundraising in 2000.

Kurtz's says his experience at MIT Sloan helped shape his career. His education enabled him to grow and diversify Kulite Tungsten Corporation, a manufacturer of high-density tungsten alloys that he joined in 1965. He served as a sales manager, vice president, and general manager before becoming president and chief executive officer in 1968. When he heard that tungsten darts were being made in England, Kurtz saw an opportunity and expanded Kulite's operations into a new market.

“A lot of what I learned at MIT Sloan guided me at this time,” Kurtz says of expanding his business. “I began asking the right questions about positioning and conducting mini-market research. I discovered a niche market in the dart industry and began thinking about the importance that packaging played in appealing to a higher-end crowd.”

Using his expertise in material science and product development, Kurtz encouraged innovative changes to the design of the company's tungsten components, and soon Kulite was manufacturing and distributing its own products under a division named Accudart. When Kurtz retired after 35 years working for Kulite, the company's workforce had grown from six to over 100 employees and was contributing to the aerospace, medical, electronic, and sporting goods industries.

“When you look back, the concepts you learn at MIT Sloan are the ones you don't remember learning,” Kurtz says of how his education helped him in his career. “That's how it happens at MIT. The knowledge simply becomes a part of you.”

Today, Kurtz has diversified in business once again. This time his focus is on photography. Throughout his career, Kurtz remained an avid fan of photography and collected fine art photographs on the side. In 1985, he purchased the archive of Berenice Abbott, an American photographer best known for her photographs of New York in the 1930s and her science photographs for MIT. After donating a large portion of the archive to various museums and institutions, he established Commerce Graphics, an organization to administer the commercial aspects of Abbott's work. This business remained in the background of his entrepreneurial efforts until 1997 when he sold Kulite and became involved full time with Commerce Graphics as its president, the role he continues in today.

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