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WHOI Waypoints: Remembrance: Cecil Howard Green

Cecil Howard Green, philanthropist and co-founder of Texas Instruments, took special joy in giving away more than $200 million to scientific and educational institutions during his 102-year lifetime. “Our giving has been an investment in pleasure and satisfaction,” he said. “If you don’t give it away, a bunch of strangers will be giving it away for you. Why not do it yourself while you’re still around?”

As a man who built a career on the development of scientific instrumentation, Green appropriately endowed a program to promote advances in leading-edge technologies at WHOI. The Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Technology Innovation Awards were established in the 1990s to provide initial funding of $20,000 to $30,000 for inventive and groundbreaking ideas.

Many of these seemingly small seeds have already borne fruit. For instance, an inter-departmental team including Richard Krishfield, Ken Doherty, John Toole, and Andrey Proshutinsky received $30,000 in 2002 to begin development of expendable moored profiling systems that could be suspended below pack ice for sustained observation of the waters beneath polar caps. This year, that seed blossomed into $650,000 from the National Science Foundation to construct and field-test prototype ice-tethered profilers in the central Arctic.

Andy Bowen, Alan Chave, and Joe Coburn used Green Technology funding in 1996 to study the feasibility of using an abandoned telephone cable to support a seafloor science observatory halfway between Hawaii and California. In 1998, the team established the Hawaii-2 Observatory, which still stands as the only U.S.-
operated deep-ocean observatory.

Green started his career as a geophysical prospector for petroleum. In 1941, Green and three partners bought Geophysical Service Inc., and built it into a world leader in geophysical exploration. During World War II, the company began the electronics work that gave rise to Texas Instruments, where Green served as a vice president and director.

Green worked as hard at philanthropy as he did at business, once noting “the idea is to get down to my last nickel before I die.” From 1950 through early 2003, his Foundation endowed scores of academic chairs, fellowships, and scholarships, and contributed to the construction of several hospitals, schools, college buildings, and research facilities.

Green gave not just money, but insight. In a commencement address to the MIT/WHOI Joint Program class of 1980, Green urged graduates to look beyond their own interests and egos.

“You must develop one all-important ability—being able to enlist the help of other people. You have to reach a state where others want to help you. This includes giving credit...which will come back to you a hundredfold. Your reputation stems
from what people say when you’re
not present.”

Originally published: November 1, 2003