11, 2019) … This year’s Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pittsburgh
Swanson School of Engineering have worked with lesson plans and strategic
plans, cosmetics and the cosmos, brains and barrels and bridges. It’s a diverse
group, but each honoree shares two things in common on their long lists of
accomplishments: outstanding achievement in their fields, and of course,
graduation from the University of Pittsburgh.
This year’s recipient for the Department of Electrical and
Computer Engineering is Robert Van Naarden, BSEE ’69, CEO of Delta Thermo
The six individuals representing each of the Swanson
School’s departments and one overall honoree representing the entire school
gathered at the 55th annual Distinguished Alumni Banquet at the University of
Pittsburgh’s Alumni Hall to accept their awards. James R. Martin, US Steel Dean
of Engineering, led the banquet for the first time since starting his tenure at
Pitt in the fall.
“We like to ask our alumni what they remember most while at
Pitt, and Robert said that his Pitt engineering education ‘prepared me for the
real world not only for design engineering, which is how I started my
engineering career, but even more importantly the discipline of critical
thinking,’” says Dean Martin. “That education is apparent from the many things
Robert has achieved—from the first minicomputer that he worked on in 1970 to
the leadership in sustainable energy he provides today.”
About Robert Van
Robert Van Naarden began his technology career after earning
Bachelor of Science degrees in Physics and Electrical Engineering (University
of Pittsburgh) and Master of Science degrees in Computer Science and Electrical
While pursuing his PhD he was offered a position with
Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) to design defense critical systems
computers. He was on the original design team of the PDP 11, which became the
world’s most successful mini-computer. After migrating through various
engineering and engineering management roles, he originated the idea to design
and bring to market the world’s first microcomputer, the PDP 16, based
partially on the successful PDP 11 design. He grew to be the youngest Profit
and Loss Group Manager at DEC and managed its fastest growing business.
While in Philadelphia, Mr. Van Naarden earned an Executive
Master of Business Administration degree at the Wharton School of the
University of Pennsylvania, sponsored by Digital.
In 1979, he co-founded Convergent Technologies (CT). CT
became the fastest growing company in the computer industry. He and his partner
at Convergent started another company, Ardent Computer, which was focused on
the single user supercomputer space. After four years, the company merged with
its principal competitor, Stellar Computer, to form Stardent Computer. Two
years later, at Rob’s direction, the company was sold by splitting it up into
its four components/divisions.
Mr. Van Naarden moved on to start and fix a variety of other
companies: Supermac, Firepower, Netframe, AMT, Sensar and Authentidate, where
he started the company as its founder and CEO.
In 2004, Mr. Van Naarden became CEO of Empire Kosher
Poultry, Inc, turning it into a profitable company within nine months after
running at a loss for seven years. After four years, Mr. Van Naarden returned
to his roots in technology and is currently the CEO of Delta Thermo Energy an
alternative energy company which uses innovative technologies for converting
waste materials to energy.
Mr. Van Naarden also serves as a General Partner
at BVB Capital Group and on the boards of several technology companies.
Contact: Maggie Pavlick