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The Utah Technology Council on Friday will induct three new members into its Hall of Fame.
The honorees are Gary L. Crocker of Crocker Ventures and former Gov. Mike Leavitt, with Ballard Medical founder Dale H. Ballard awarded the honor posthumously.
The council, a trade group for high technology-related businesses, will honor the three at its annual black-tie event at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. The featured speaker will be John T. Chambers, chairman and chief executive of Cisco Systems Inc., a San Jose, Calif., company with a $134 billion market capitalization that sells equipment that helps operate or works on the Internet.
Gary L. Crocker
Crocker was born and raised in Salt Lake City, then received a scholarship to Harvard University where be stayed on and earned a master of business administration degree. While in Boston, he took a part-time job as a salesman for a medical device company and, he said, "got to know and love interaction with doctors in that industry."
After graduation, Crocker went to work for Baxter International, the world's largest medical device company. He then returned to Utah and helped James LeVoy Sorenson, another member of the Hall of Fame, sell Sorenson Research to Abbott Laboratories, staying on as the liaison between Abbott and Sorenson Research.
Crocker said he "got tired of that and had an itch to start my own company." His Research Medical became the world's largest manufacturer and marketer of catheters that connect the body to a heart and lung machine for open-heart surgery.
Research Medical was sold to Baxter International in 1997 for about $240 million, which Crocker said at that time was the largest medical device sale in the state's history. He, Dinesh Patel and others co-founded TheraTech, the state's first biotechnology company, which developed patches that could deliver drugs through the skin. TheraTech was sold in 1999 to Watson Pharmaceuticals for about $340 million.
Crocker's shares of those two sales formed the nucleus for Crocker Ventures, a life sciences and health care investment firm where he is president.
Unlike other venture capital and private equity firms that usually manage other people's monies, Crocker Ventures uses its own capital to make investments.
"So we have the operational freedom that is very, very well-suited for the life sciences industry," he said. "The product development cycle in the life sciences is much longer than in most industries … so we can invest our money for the long term."
Leavitt became governor in 1993 just as the Internet was taking off, signalling a new phase of the computer revolution and heralding a shift from the state's extractive, manufacturing and defense industries to information technology as an engine of growth.
"The state's economic development up to that point had primarily been in defense, in agriculture and in manufacturing," he said. "And there were a couple of industries that were beginning to emerge. ... We could just see software was an industry we could build on, like WordPerfect and Novell. There were hundreds of potential startups that could employ people."
Leavitt believed the state had to accelerate efforts to create an atmosphere conducive to technology companies.
"We made a deliberate decision to emphasize the development of the infrastructure required to support a technology-based economy," Leavitt said. "We needed to have venture capital and law firms to put companies together. We needed a tradition of engineering, a steady supply of engineers."
The state also needed venture capital that could help start companies that emerged out of ideas of people already working in companies such as WordPerfect or the medical device companies started by James Sorenson, what Leavitt called a "virtuous circle" of economic development.
"I could see all that," the former governor said. "This was the moment of history for us to emerge and to establish ourselves as having a role" in high tech.
Serving a little more than two terms in office, Leavitt actively traveled outside the state to promote Utah.
"I spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley explaining to people why locating part of their business in Utah was a good thing for them in the near term and the long term," he said.
Leavitt resigned as governor in 2003 to become administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and in 2005 became secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush. He is co-founder and chairman of Leavitt Partners, where he advises clients in the health care and food safety sectors.
Dale H. Ballard
Ballard grew up in Magna. In 1941, he graduated from high school and then served in the Army for four years during World War II, including as a secretary to Gen. George Patton. After the war, he earned a bachelor's degree in pharmacology from the University of Utah.
Ballard then worked for the pharmaceutical company Parke-Davis, quitting in 1956 to launch his own company.
He co-founded Deseret Pharmaceutical Co. with James LeVoy Sorenson and Victor Cartwright. The company produced disposable medical items and grew rapidly. In 1977, the company was sold for $138 million to Warner Lambert.
The next year, Ballard started Ballard Medical Products and became its president, CEO and chairman. It went public in 1983 and continued to expand through the 1990s. Ballard Medical was sold in 1999 to Kimberly-Clark for $764 million.
Ballard died in 2005 at age 82.
"It's because of people like Dale Ballard that Utah has emerged as a credible national center for medical device infrastructure," Crocker said. "He took me under his wing and was a mentor of mine."
Pam Ballard of Draper, Dale Ballard's daughter, said her father considered mentoring people with ideas for products or companies a form of service.
"He knew what kind of work was ahead for these people more than they did and what kinds of things they'd have to face," she said. "So anything he could do to make them successful he was happy to do."
Current members of the Utah Technology Council Hall of Fame
Stephen Aldous, Alan Ashton, David Bailey, Bruce Bastian, H. Raymond Bingham, Nolan Bushnell, Greg Butterfield, Edwin Catmull, James Clark, Bernard Daines, David Evans, Philo Farnsworth, Jim Kajiya, Alan Kay, Spencer Kirk, Drew Major, Peter Meldrum, Raymond Noorda, Dinesh Patel, Shane Robison, Kevin Rollins, Mark Skolnick, James LeVoy Sorenson, David Spafford, Theodore H. Stanley, Thomas Stockham Jr., Ivan Sutherland, Homer Warner and John Warnock.
Hall of fame dinner
P Registration for the Friday dinner at the Grand America Hotel is closed.