OUR ALUMNI

 

Gold Medalist

Grant Saviers in his workshop in Santa Clara County, California, in 2003, building a
custom solid propellant motor mount for an ARLISS high-power rocket.

 

Grant Saviers discovered computers at Case and helped engineer an industry.  

 

Like most students in the 1960s, F. Grant Saviers ’66, MS ’68, arrived at college never having seen a computer.  Halfway through his freshman year, he discovered the computing center and the Burroughs 220, a room-sized machine with tape drives and punch cards and mystery.  It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. 

“Case had a philosophy that was very different from other universities at the time,” Saviers recalled. “The students could touch the computer. We were free to see what we could do.” 

He learned computer engineering before there was such a degree, then helped pioneer the industry as a top executive at Digital Equipment Corporation.  Today, he helps other Case students find their path to success as a supporter of scholarships, experiential learning, and as an advisor to the Case School of Engineering.   

Saviers, a founder and trustee of the Computer History Museum in Mountainview, California, will come home in October to receive the Gold Medal, the highest honor bestowed annually by the Case Alumni Association. 

To qualify for the award, candidates must demonstrate extraordinary distinction and have made a significant contribution to the field of science, engineering or management that adds to the welfare of the nation and reflects credit upon the university.

Born in Baltimore, Saviers became interested in electronics via ham radio as a boy. It was the start of a lifelong pursuit. He recalls he and his classmates in the Case amateur radio club crawling through the catacombs of Case Main to thread coaxial cable from their basement clubhouse to a rooftop antenna. 

Meanwhile, his professors encouraged professional work. He designed and installed modifications to the Univac 1107, pledged Zeta Psi, and became a young innovator. For his master’s thesis, he built a double speed acoustic modem with an on-the-fly error correcting system for connecting a Teletype terminal to a computer. 

IBM offered him a job upon graduation but he selected the smaller, edgier DEC—“these MIT guys in an old woolen mill near Boston,” as he describes it. “I thought, DEC is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to Case.  A lot of bright people, a free-wheeling environment.” 

He specialized in data storage at a company that became second to IBM in computer systems, rising to become vice president of PC Systems and Peripherals. 

After 24 years at DEC, he left in 1992 to run Adaptec, a maker of computer I/O interfaces, where he became CEO and chairman. 

“Running a fast growing public company was a new set of big challenges,” he noted. 

Saviers, who lives in Seattle, has been retired since August 1998 but his days remain full with discovery and technology. He serves on company boards and on the executive committee of the Computer History Museum, where he’s a member of the team that fully restored two IBM 1401s. 

 “Sometimes important history repeats,” he said. “I operated an identical 1401 as a summer job between my Case BS and MS.” 

He’s also a member of the ARLISS project, in which high power rocketry enthusiasts in northern California build, launch and test miniature satellites. And he remains active in amateur radio (KZ1W), including “DX-peditions” to activate stations in remote corners of the world. 

Saviers, who has been married to his wife, Dorrit, for more than 40 years, credits Case for giving him the tools and the curiosity for a fulfilling life and pursuit of engineering challenges to this day. 

“It certainly launched me in a great direction,” he said. “Looking back, I didn’t want to be lost in a great big school like Purdue or the University of Michigan. Case was the right size. It had great professors who gave students an enormous amount of freedom. I made great friends.” 

He gives back to the Case School of Engineering as a member of advisory boards, including the Silicon Valley Taskforce. He’s a longstanding member of the Case Dean’s Society, which recognizes donors who make annual leadership gifts. The F. Grant Saviers ’66 Scholarship Fund supports undergraduates in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. 

“I want to see that students have the same opportunities I had,” Saviers said. “And that leads me to want to continue to support the university.”  

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CLICK HERE TO SAY CONGRATS TO GRANT!

 

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