Kendall Russell ’77: From Turntables to Aerospace to Home Conveniences

Kendall remembers his Delta Chi days from a different perspective than most; not only did he live in the house, but he was the house manager for most of his time at Delta Chi. Through this position, he spent many hours repairing things throughout the house and trying to keep up with the fire inspections that occured once per term. “The chapter meetings were a great training ground for running meetings in a business setting,” he said.

Outside of his position, he greatly enjoyed living in the house from his sophomore year on with Scott Leak ’77 and John Monforte ’76 as roommates. John worked at Morgan Sound Studios where Motown artists Stevie Wonder, Bob Seager, Ted Nugent, and others recorded, which was definitely something to bring the brothers together. 

The three brothers combined their stereos and album collections to create four orange crates of albums. Their stereo system had bi-amped stacked Advents, two reel-to-reels, two high-end turntables, a Crown preamp, and a custom active crossover for the two amplifiers.

Delta Chi Michigan brothers would have parties in the room “light house” and record music from the party on a reel-to-reel. They would use two turntables and have to cue songs from one turntable to the next. “If you made a mistake, then it got recorded on the tape and you would be harassed about it every time the reel-to-reel was played going forward,” he said. During spring and summer terms, they had some fun parties on the back roof deck.

Because the drinking age was 18, Kendall believes some of the binge drinking that you see today was reduced. The Purdue Delta Chis, where the drinking age was 21, showed up for a football games and got so drunk that they got thrown out of a bar at 11:00 a.m., which didn’t happen at Michigan.

A more specific fond memory is of his big brother, Mark Bertrand ’76, who was coming down to get his picture taken for the fraternity composite, but he came down in his underwear because the notice said the dress was coat and tie but did not say pants were required. On his way down the stairs, several sorority girls unexpectedly walked through the front door.

Since his DX days, he has stayed in touch with Scott Leak and Ron Scafe ’77, who he pledged with, and has also stayed in touch with his little brother, Wally Cornwall ’79, and Frank Morrey ’64.

Post-graduation, he worked on the night vision system TADS/PNVS for Martin Marietta in Orlando, FL, which is used in Apache helicopters.  While he was working, he also made time to further his education by taking graduate courses at the Florida Institute of Technology.

His next career move was working for Boeing for a couple of years in a Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) design group. “In 1981, this meant an integrated circuit that contained 10K transistors or above. Today there are ‘chips’ that have over a billion transistors. We started with 5 micron, single metal NMOS and by 1998 we were doing applications in .15 micron CMOS with five layers of metal,” he said.

Some of the applications that Seattle Silicon/Cascade Design Automation software was used to create include Delco electronics automotive applications; Boeing Military and Commercial; Creative Labs Sound Blaster; graphics chips for 3DFX and Nvidea; DSP (Digital Signal Processing) electronic key board chip sets for Emu, Korg, and Kurzweil; Sony consumer audio; Motorola cell phones; and government systems group, JPL Search for Extraterestrial Intelligence (SETI) project.

Kendall left with a core team and was one of the founding members at Seattle Silicon, which was bought by Oki of Japan and became Cascade Design Automation. The University of Michigan taught four courses at the graduate level that used their software. There was even a student VLSI design contest between Utah universities and Michigan, during which Michigan typically won three of the top five awards. Major customers were Motorola, Boeing, Delco Electronics, and Oki. Software donations were given to 80 universities worldwide. 

After 17 years with Seattle Silicon/Cascade Design Automation, an Indian company bought and killed the company over the course of 18 months. Kendall left as the Chief Technology Officer. His career took him from Michigan to Orlando, FL, before ending up in Seattle. 

Now, he spends his time focusing on his own company, RS Scene Automation. He designed a family of control products for motorized window covering that he sells on Amazon and wholesale to several shade companies.

When he isn’t working, he is spending time with his wife, Debbie. “She is the love of my life,” he said.  Debbie has been a call center director for several cell phone companies and ran the Starbucks call center, but she is retiring this year. Kendall looks forward to them spending more time together.

Kendall had two sons from his first marriage and has two step daughters. The oldest son was a Delta Chi at the University of Washington while his other son was a Lambda Chi, since there is no DX at Oregon. From their children, they have gained five wonderful grandchildren, including two sets of twins, and a sixth one is on the way!

In 50 years, he wants people to remember first and foremost that his family and their happiness and success going forward is what was always most important to him.

Kendall offers one piece of advice to the Delta Chi actives: “Do what you love to do and pick a career that you can grow with. If you pick the right emerging company you can ride the growth” and, even in the face of things not going your way, “don’t dwell on any failures; keep moving forward and learn at every step.”