“Closer By The Mile” in Memory of a Technology Innovator

Company Culture, Events, Innovation Posted Aug 20, 2015 by Liza Vilnits

15_0801 Wellesley to MMA 202Earlier this month I did something that was more intimidating than anything I’ve ever done before. And I’ve been skydiving. I rode my bicycle 163 miles for the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC) in an effort to raise awareness and funds for the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Each rider who participated did so to, consistent with the PMC vision, get one step closer to a cure with every mile.

As I mentioned back in April, I had zero cycling experience before signing up for this event; although the trainings felt long and grueling at times, it was one of the most exciting and rewarding things I’ve ever done. Throughout the two days, when my calves were aching and my bum was numb, I still couldn’t wipe the cheesy smile from my face.

volunteersThe volunteer support was so touching. Four thousand strong—both young and old—they made sure we had everything we could have wanted to get us through that ride. (I’m still detoxing from all the fluffernutter sandwiches I ate!)

And the spectators were phenomenal. While riding through the Cape on Sunday morning we approached a school parking lot and as we got closer I started to see a field full of signs… then the sound of a marching band began to build. We rode by with the smiling faces of roughly 100 people cheering and thanking us. The emotional outpouring was overwhelming and I lost it. My boyfriend looked at me and said “You’re already crying?”

I was just surprised to have made it that far without crying!

It’s unfortunate that, despite so many advances in modern medicine, we live in a world where cancer remains an ever-present threat. Young or old, healthy or weak, male or female, cancer is an indiscriminate stalker; directly or indirectly, cancer touches us all. My connection—and my motivation—was my uncle, Rudy.

Uncle Rudy, along with my aunt Lena and their young son Dan left the Soviet Union in 1977 in pursuit of the American Dream. Not only did Rudy hold a master’s degree in applied mathematics and electro-physics, but he exuded an entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to a vision that did not go unnoticed. Uncle Rudy and Aunt Lena combined their engineering brains and created an image compression algorithm which they successfully pitched to Kodak and which became the basis for their first company, Edicon. Edicon “paved the way for digital revolution in photography, security and government identification programs,” (Security Info Watch) and after building the innovative company which ultimately became a $50 million division of Kodak, they left to take on a new challenge.

In 1990, they founded Lenel Systems, which began as a multimedia software company before expanding into the physical and information security markets. At the time lots of companies were selling hardware and software in the quickly growing market, but Lenel’s vision was unique – it supported an open architecture that allowed virtual compatibility with any security hardware and seamless integration with basically any other system that operated via computers or networks. Their solution became a dominant player in the homeland and global security market and was adopted by more than 10,000 customers including U.S. military and world conglomerates, in over 74 countries.

RUDYRudy and Lena were the true depiction of a family who left the political instability and harsh conditions of a broken land to pursue something bigger and better for themselves and for their son. Rudy pursued his dream and lived an extremely fulfilling life but after a harsh battle with blood cancer, he unfortunately passed in 2009.

My uncle’s dedication and passion is something that could not have been denied, and I tried to channel that spirit during my long and hilly 163 mile ride. As I approached the finish line in Provincetown, I was suddenly overcome with emotions – the combination of completing the ride along with seeing my fellow teammates, the volunteers and my family and friends, I was once again brought to tears.


Uncle Rudy was proof that (as they say), you can accomplish anything you put your mind to, and I’m fortunate enough to have had him with me (and on the back of my jersey) when I crossed the finish line.