Andy Rachleff: A Passion for Technology

Andy Rachleff (W’80, MBA Stanford) wants to stem the tide of engineering students going to work for Wall Street, and he’s making sure Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science is a bulwark of defense. “Engineers are the key to a successful and diversified economy. It’s imperative we train more engineers and help them understand all the positives involved in making that a career choice,” he says.

Rachleff co-founded Benchmark Capital in 1995, which was the sole investor in eBay, one of Silicon Valley’s best performing investments. “I was fortunate to succeed financially because of the efforts of brilliant engineers,” says Rachleff. “I want to do more than give back. I want to make sure we get more engineering students out in the world working as engineers.”

As the new chairman of the Board of Overseers for Penn Engineering, Rachleff is especially appreciative of the underlying strengths of the School’s mission: integrating teaching and research, attracting and retaining outstanding faculty, and upgrading the facilities. His intention is to support Dean Eduardo Glandt’s initiatives to help the School become an international center of engineering excellence, and catalyze the region’s technology innovations. “The Dean has a compelling agenda and I am excited to help in any way I can,” Rachleff says.

Rachleff joined the Board of Overseers in 2000 because he was compelled to address the nation’s diminishing ability to innovate due to loss of engineers in the workplace. In addition, he felt that encouraging engineering students to pursue engineering as a career would not only benefit the world, but would attract more funding to help the school thrive. “We need to benefit from a virtuous cycle of industrial funding,”explains Rachleff. “We need our graduates to pursue careers in real engineering, not financial engineering. Once our graduates are placed in corporations, it is far more likely that their employers will fund research at the School, which in turn will allow us to attract better faculty, which in turn attracts better students, which refreshes the cycle.”

Encouraging students to become engineers has been a pet project of Rachleff ’s over the years. He has funded a lecture series at Penn that brings highly successful engineers to campus to talk with students about the joy of designing compelling products. He has also endowed Penn’s Rachleff Scholars program, a multi-faceted honors program offering undergraduates the opportunity to conduct research with
University faculty, organize partnerships with regional industry and perform community outreach with students and peers who share a common interest in engineering research and scholarly inquiry. The Rachleff Scholars program is designed to attract extraordinary engineering students and produce lifelong leaders in technological innovation.

“With these programs, I hope to encourage students in a serious pursuit of engineering as a career,” he says. Along with his duties at SEAS, Rachleff has pursued his passion for education through his involvement as a university trustee and a lecturer on entrepreneurship at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He and his wife Debbie are strong proponents of applying philanthropy where it can provide the most leverage, namely education and health. They are also active in support efforts for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer and Multiple Sclerosis, and children’s health.

Credit: Penn Engineering Magazine, “Andy Rachleff: A Passion For Technology,” by Amy Biemiller.

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