Evelyn Berezin, computer pioneer, dies at 93

Evelyn Berezin, computer pioneer, dies at 93

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Evelyn Berezin. Photo by Barbara Nelson

Evelyn Berezin, formerly of Poquott, died Dec. 8 at the Mary Manning Walsh Home in New York City. She was 93 years old.

She was a computer pioneer who built and marketed the first computerized word processor and the founder and president of the tech start-up Redactron Corporation, which manufactured and sold word processors.

Evelyn Berezin. File photo

Among the honors she received in her lifetime were inductions into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in Los Angeles in 2011 and the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, in 2015.

In an interview with The Village Times Herald in 2015, Berezin said when she was younger she thought she would pursue a career in physics, not computer science.

“I got into it by accident,” Berezin said. “It was so early in the game, I didn’t know what it was.”

Berezin was born April 12, 1925, in the Bronx. She was 15 years old when she graduated from high school and went on to study at Hunter College where she developed an interest in physics. She said the day after Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, her high school physics teacher offered her a research job. Since she was 16, she had to lie about her age in order to get the position.

“Every boy in the country was given a number to be drafted,” Berezin said. “I happened to be there at the right time.”

Berezin worked in a lab while attending college at night and went on to study math at Brooklyn Polytech, physics and chemistry at New York University and English at Hunter. In the April 10, 2015, Village Times Herald article, Berezin said while talking to a recruiter about a government job she discovered that there weren’t many positions in physics, so she asked about computers, something she admitted she never heard of at the time.

Berezin went on to work for a few companies designing computers before opening Redactron.

“In 1969 I decided I would never get to be vice president because I was a woman,” Berezin said. “I decided to start my own company.”

From 1969 to 1975, Redactron grew to employ 500 workers. In 1976, she decided to sell the company to the Burroughs Corporation and joined the company as president of its Redactron division, a position she held until about 1980. After leaving Burroughs, Berezin became involved in a number of start-up companies and moved to Long Island.

Berezin became a member of the Stony Brook Foundation in 1985, according to the Stony Brook University website. She served on the investment committee and was a member of Brookhaven Science Associates, served on the board of overseers of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of New York University and held a board position with the Sion Power Corporation. She became a member of the John S. Toll Heritage Society at Stony Brook and established the Berezin-Wilenitz Endowment.

“I feel that Stony Brook has given and continues to give a great education to children from low income families and particularly to children of immigrants,” Berezin is quoted as saying on the SBU website. She and her husband of 51 years, Israel Wilenitz, a chemical engineer, also funded the Sam and Rose Berezin Endowed Scholarship, named after her parents.

“Evelyn Berezin spent a lifetime defying expectations and pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and her guidance and generosity have helped empower Stony Brook University and its students to do the same,” SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in a statement. “Her friendship has made Stony Brook a stronger institution, and we will forever be grateful to her.”

Berezin’s husband predeceased her in 2003. Funeral services were held Dec. 11 at the Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City.