In Remembrance: Allan Martyn Gerrish ’59E, ’63DEng Died on May 19 2018

Allan Martyn Gerrish, electrical engineer, inventor, high tech entrepreneur, and philanthropist, died on May 19, 2018, at age 80.

Working for Bell Labs for the first 25 years of his career in both New Jersey and Colorado,  Al loved being part of the movers and shakers who were creating the computer age. He was responsible for the product development of the DIMENSION family of PBXs, a telephone switching system for small businesses, and developed one of the first minicomputers to control telephone switching. His later work contributed to the technology and standards for high-speed digital data transmission, making a significant impact on the development of the Internet today. He was a popular manager and leader, noted for his good humor, intelligence, and creativity, and keeping calm when the inevitable crises occurred.

Born in Melrose, Massachusetts, to Grenville Bradbury Gerrish and Madeline Martyn Smith Gerrish, Allan graduated from Melrose High in 1955. He ran track, played hockey, and was voted by his classmates as “most likely to successfully bluff.” 

His family, just like the five generations that came before, spent summers on Lake Winnipesaukee in Melvin Village, New Hampshire. They lived on the Wawbeek Shore, where he worked summer jobs and attended Northwoods Camp, beginning his lifelong love affair with hiking and the outdoors, climbing all the peaks in the Sandwich range by age 14. 

After high school, he continued to run track and play hockey, while pursuing his studies at Yale University. He earned a BE from Yale College in 1959 and continued on to graduate in 1963 on the dean’s list with a PhD in electrical engineering.  

In the summer of 1962, his mother called to tell him that her friend’s daughter, Gail Smith, was home for the summer, having just graduated from Colby College. They began dating and were married on July 14, 1963. 

In 1973, after ten years in New Jersey, Allan and Gail moved with their daughter Allison to Boulder, Colorado, in search of new career and lifestyle opportunities. He continued his love of running and ran in the first BolderBoulder in 1979. Ever the avid mountaineer, Al began rock climbing, backpacking, rafting, and skiing in the Rocky Mountains, enjoying the immensity of the peaks compared to what they were used to back in New England.  

In 1983, he moved back to New Jersey to work at Bell Labs, developing technology for digital telephones, advanced digital terminals and peripherals for PBXs and small business systems. 

By 1990, Al was feeling the pressure on AT&T to replace innovation with a more marketing-oriented model, and so he decided to take early retirement from Bell Labs and headed off to Europe to fulfill a childhood dream of climbing the Matterhorn. With Gail cheering him on, and his Italian guide Evo helping him train, he summited the peak on the first try in 1991. They celebrated by traveling through Europe for three months before moving out to San Francisco to be closer to their daughter, where Al then became part of the new high-tech entrepreneurial culture. 

He taught statistical communications at UC–Berkeley for a year, before being recruited by his graduate school roommate to become a director of network technology at Optivison. They were one of the first companies to develop and commercialize optical technology through government contracts for transmitting and switching Internet data. 

In 1997, Al and Gail decided to move back to Boulder to be with old friends and embrace the Rocky Mountain lifestyle once again. He was involved in several more start-ups, including Service Metrics, before devoting his time to more philanthropic work.

Passionate about early education opportunities,  Al started a building maintenance and beautification program for local elementary schools, and was involved in creating a program for leveling the playing field for low-income early-education students in the Boulder Valley Schools. He was honored to support the causes he believed in, such as contributing to build a new ready-to-work facility for Bridge House, a local nonprofit dedicated to providing a pathway to self-sufficiency for the homeless.  

Still spending summers in New Hampshire, he was deeply committed to preserving the special landscape and character of the Lakes Region. Working with the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, he played a major role in the purchase and protection of the 5,500-acre Castle in the Clouds property. He was also an advisor and supporter of the Castle Preservation Society, a separate nonprofit created to preserve and present to the public the Castle in the Clouds historic buildings.  

A brilliant problem solver, Al enjoyed researching his English family history and traveling to the country to unearth details and stories from generations gone by.  Al was an “uninhibited individualist with a catching laugh” and a wise, creative, and loving man. He will be greatly missed.  

Al is survived by his wife Gail and daughter Allison as well as his many nieces and nephews. His sister Carol Gerrish Good passed away in 2015. 

Two services are planned to celebrate his life. The first will be held on Friday, June 29, 2018, at 2:30 p.m. in the Chapel Hall at The Academy, 970 Aurora Street, Boulder, CO; and the second will be held on Friday, August 17, 2018, at 4 p.m. at Castle in the Clouds, Rt. 171, 455 Old Mountain Road, Moultonborough, NH.  

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be sent to the Lakes Region Conservation Trust, PO Box 766, 156 Dane Road, Center Harbor, NH 03226 (, or Bridge House, Ready-to-Work Program, 5345 Arapahoe Avenue, #5, Boulder, CO 80303 (

—Submitted by the family.

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