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Grads help MCI make strong connection

Jerry Nelson, Adrianna Smart and Mark Lofgren
Jerry Nelson (left), Adrianna Smart and Mark Lofgren work at MCI Global Relay Services.

Providing communication options to deaf and hard of hearing individuals is an important and growing business for the telecom industry.

“Technology can be a boon for individuals with hearing disabilities, especially in the last few years with the advent of the Internet,” says Jerry Nelson ’74 (manufacturing and mechanical engineering technology), who is senior manager for MCI Global Relay Services. “Our business unit offers traditional telecommunication relay services (TRS) and Internet Protocol (IP) relay services. The IP relay suite, which is the fastest growing relay product line, offers relay access via PCs, wireless devices, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), and videophones.”

MCI began offering TRS in 1992, and added Internet (IP) relay in 2000, followed by video relay and wireless relay services. The new systems allow deaf and hard of hearing people to use their computers or handheld wireless devices to communicate with each other as well as the hearing world. In fact, handheld devices such as Sidekick fill much the same role as cell phones.

Nelson leads a staff of eight focused on marketing communications, product management, state TRS sales and contract administration,
and Web site management. His team includes two other RIT grads: Outreach Specialist Mark Lofgren ’87 (applied computer technology), and Product Marketing Specialist Adrianna Smart ’98 (professional and technical communications), ’03 (MBA). All three were recruited by MCI. “We were really impressed with their background,” says Paul Orloff, director of TRS Operations for MCI Global Relay Services.

Nelson says working in this area of the communications industry is especially rewarding.

“We live in a fast-paced, ever-changing environment that is full of technological innovations,” says Nelson. “A career that furthers IP technology in a competitive industry, such as IP Relay, will always be challenging and rewarding, professionally and personally.”

 

Designer’s 50-year project grinds to a halt

Kenneth Gernold
Kenneth Gernold has spent half a century working on his home, a 19th century grist mill.

Skilled interior designers possess a certain creative vision that allows them to see beyond what a structure looks like to what it could become.

That explains why Kenneth Gernold ’50 (retailing and interior design) bought a dilapidated, century-old grist mill in 1953. Over the following decades, Gernold became a success in his career, but Gilbert Mill has been his life’s work.

Now the labor of love is coming to an end. This spring Gernold put the mill – his unique home for half a century – on the market.

“I fell off the ladder and bloodied my face,” says Gernold, 78. “That settled it.”

Caring for a piece of history is not for the faint of heart, but Gernold has found it immensely rewarding.

Located in the Town of Avon, N.Y., about 20 minutes south of the RIT campus, Gernold’s home is a rambling, three-story structure of wood and stone. The limestone foundation walls are two feet thick. Enormous, hand-hewn beams support the upper floors. The split front door is 4 feet wide and 8 feet high.

Those structural characteristics attracted Gernold, even though the place was falling apart when he bought it for $2,000 from an elderly member of the Gilbert family.

“It was a gorgeous building,” he says, “and it has such history. It’s a wonderful place, not just a house.”

The mill ceased operation around 1930, but much of the old machinery was still in place when Gernold found it. Over the years, Gernold has incorporated those artifacts into the décor: handmade pulleys, chutes, gears, even the old “Gilbert Mills” stencils used to mark bags of flour are displayed among Gernold’s extensive art collection. Wood panels from mill equipment have been repurposed as kitchen cabinet doors. Gernold’s dining buffet was once a work bench. Leather conveyer belts serve as bathroom flooring. Millstones are set into the front porch.

The eccentric, rustic style of the place is in sharp contrast to Gernold’s elegant designs for his clients. Before opening his own shop on East Avenue in Rochester, Gernold worked for the interior design departments at Sibley’s, Lauer Furniture, and Bradley Meade Interiors locally and for an exclusive design and antique
business in California.

The mill’s 14,000 square feet seemed a bit too spacious for Gernold’s needs, so he divided the space into five apartments. In the 1990s, Gernold acquired adjacent property that included a barn, which he converted into three apartments. The entire property, including both buildings and 8.5 acres of land, carries an asking price of $1.75 million. Gernolds artifacts, art and antiques stay with the mill.

Gernold would like to see his home go to an appreciative new owner – someone who can see the charm and character of the place. An artist, perhaps, or a large family. He thinks it could have a new life as a bed-and-breakfast inn.
He doesn’t expect to be around to see the next phase. Gernold is heading for a new setting.

“I’m going to Mexico,” he says. “The architecture is gorgeous.”

 

Engineer of the year is RIT grad

Brock Barry

Brock Barry '96

“When I was a little kid my parents had to drag me out of the sandbox,” says Brock Barry ’96 (civil engineering technology). “Now I get paid to do it.”

He has also received significant recognition for his work. In June, Barry received the Young Engineer of the Year Award from the New York State Society of Professional Engineers (NYSSPE). Barry, a geotechnical engineer with Haley & Aldrich Inc., was nominated for the honor by the Monroe Professional Engineers Society.

“I’m walking on air,” says the engineer who specializes “in the underground environment.”

Since joining Haley & Aldrich, a national underground engineering and environmental consulting firm, in 1998, Barry has had the opportunity to work on a number of large and interesting projects. He spent nine months in Guyana, South America, as field engineer for a project to construct a new foundation for a hospital that was sinking.

Working on a major building project in a third-world country proved “interesting, eye-opening and challenging,” he says. “I discovered that you can’t take anything for granted.”

Closer to home, Barry has served as senior engineer and project manager for the geotechnical engineering portions of the new 20,000-seat PAETEC Park Soccer Stadium in Rochester, and he was a geotechnical project engineer for Cornell University’s innovative cooling system using water from the depths of Cayuga Lake.

“These are the types of projects, the caliber of projects Haley & Aldrich takes on,” Barry says.

After graduating from RIT, Barry earned an M.S. in civil engineering from the University of Colorado. The graduate degree is a fine credential, but Barry credits his RIT education with providing the fundamentals and applied approach to engineering that he considers essentials. The co-op experiences were an added bonus.

“Clearly my RIT education has been instrumental in the success I have garnered during my career,” he says. “It was definitely the right place for me.”

New York’s 2005 Young Engineer of the Year is already sharing his knowledge with a new group of engineers. Barry teaches at RIT and Monroe Community College as an adjunct faculty and guest lecturer. “I really enjoy helping to shape the next generation, and it’s quite an honor to be treated as a colleague by my former professors.”

 

Telecom innovation led to global connection

Klaus and Brigitte Gueldenpfennig

Klaus and Brigitte Gueldenpfennig are successful entrepreneurs, RIT grads and supporters.

Klaus Gueldenpfennig '74, '77 (M.S. electrical engineering, MBA) founded REDCOM Laboratories Inc. for a very important reason.

“I didn't have a job,” he quips.

Natives of Berlin, Gueldenpfennig and his wife, Brigitte '87 (MBA), came to Rochester from New York City in the 1960s when Klaus accepted a position as a design engineer with Stromberg-Carlson. When the division shut down in 1978, Gueldenpfennig decided to design and market his own products for the telecommunications industry.

“We looked for a niche,” he explains. “The big players set the trends. As a small company, we win by being innovative, by offering something the big companies can't provide.”

Gueldenpfennig developed an idea for a modular, scalable telephone system and filed his base patent in 1979. REDCOM introduced its first product – the Modular Switching Unit – in 1981.

“Our first customer was in Alaska ,” says Gueldenpfennig. “Today, 75 percent of the telephone systems in Alaska are REDCOM.”

With customers in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa , Gueldenpfennig spends a great deal of time traveling, typically circling the globe four or five times a year. REDCOM has numerous customers in the South Pacific, including Tonga , Fiji , the Cook Islands, American Samoa and the Solomon Islands . REDCOM's modular systems are also useful to military units that need to set up communications facilities quickly and efficiently in a variety of locations. Customers include government agencies and public and private companies that turn to REDCOM for products including network systems, ISDN systems, tactical systems, programmable platforms and test equipment.

All products are manufactured at company headquarters in Victor , N.Y. , where REDCOM has about 200 employees equally divided between engineering, production and administration/sales/marketing functions. Klaus is president and chairman of the board, Brigitte is vice president for finance and personnel, and their daughter, Dinah Gueldenpfennig DeRoller '97, '03 (M.S. software development, MBA) is vice president for government programs.

RIT and REDCOM have close and numerous connections. About a third of the company's employees are RIT graduates, and REDCOM regularly employs students in co-op positions. Gueldenpfennig has taught telecommunication principals (switching systems theory) as an adjunct faculty member, served on advisory boards and became a member of the RIT Board of Trustees in 1992. He was instrumental in founding and supporting RIT's telecommunications engineering technology program. This year, REDCOM committed $250,000 toward construction of the William G. McGowan Center for Telecommunications, which will be part of the proposed engineering technology building.

Gueldenpfennig is constantly looking for new ideas for products and new market opportunities within the rapidly evolving telecommunications industry. It's difficult to predict what the future will bring, so it is important to be prepared. Products related to Internet services are likely areas for future expansion.

“We need to be focused, to pick and choose what we do,” says Gueldenpfennig. “We carefully control what we get into, but I'm not averse to taking risks. We can't ignore the technology transition taking place.”

For more information about REDCOM Laboratories, visit www.redcom.com.