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Featured Corporator: Albert Ehrenfried

Few people remember Emerson Hospital in the 1960s. But Albert Ehrenfried does. “Emerson wasn’t much more than a cottage hospital back then,” Mr. Ehrenfried recalls. With Elmina “Pat” Snow serving as hospital administrator, Emerson was experiencing rapid growth. The West Wing had just opened, ground was broken for the Wheeler Wing, and the John Cuming Building was in the planning stages.

“I knew Pat Snow well,” he notes. “She was a great leader at a time when the hospital needed her strong direction.”

Mr. Ehrenfried has paid close attention to Emerson, and not just because he has been an occasional patient during his 92 years and currently relies on Peter Hoenig, MD, at Lincoln Physicians for primary care. Mr. Ehrenfried has served as a corporator since 1963, totaling 52 years, making him the longest-serving corporator. “I attend nearly every meeting,” he says of the breakfast and evening gatherings that are aimed at keeping corporators well informed. “I appreciate the fact that they often feature new technology.”

That is because Mr. Ehrenfried started building things when he was young. “At age 14, I designed and built a sailing kayak with out-riggers and a sail," says the Lewiston, Maine, native who studied engineering physics at the University of Maine, Orono, and served as class president. Last July, he led the class’s 70th reunion, for which he wrote a 28-page history, America and the Class of 1944, that chronicles the impact of World War II on the class.

“I graduated from UMaine in December 1943 and, a month later, joined the staff of the newly formed MIT Radiation Laboratory, where radar was pioneered,” he says. “After Pearl Harbor in December 1941, our nation was embroiled in global warfare. Equipment developed at 'RadLab' helped win the Battle of Britain, enhanced field artillery and night bombing, and swung the outcome of the war in favor of the Allies.”

With the war still underway, Mr. Ehrenfried enlisted and performed highly classified surveillance work as a technical sergeant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He returned to MIT to work at the Instrumentation Laboratory (now the Draper Laboratory) and earn his masters degree in aero/astro engineering under the GI Bill. Mr. Ehrenfried then provided business consulting at Technical Marketing Associates, Inc., a firm he founded in Concord.

While at church one week, he met two inventors who had conceived a gauge for measuring the levels of liquids in tanks. “We set up a company, Metritape, Inc., initially in West Concord, to pioneer a totally original technology,” he says. “We gauged tanks of all sizes, but principally the thousands of 100-foot-deep compartments in large supertankers. I traveled to shipyards all over the world. It was an exciting and gratifying business.”

Ventures, boards and The Place

With his varied interests and impressive background, Mr. Ehrenfried became involved in numerous ventures. When a neighbor’s son established Lambda Research, he was invited to join the management team. “We develop optical engineering software that initially was for use by NASA,” he explains. “As a result, NASA can now perform concurrent 3D design and systems integration.” He had previously joined the board of Acorn Structures, a prefab home-building company based in Acton, and the board of Concord Cooperative Bank, which grew to more than $1 billion in assets.

Along the way, he settled down with his wife, Jo-Ann, also from Lewiston, who ran the Emerson Hospital gift shop every Friday for many years. She was known for her TV work at Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) and as a choreographer and ballroom dance instructor. They raised two children who attended the Concord schools.

His involvement with Trinity Episcopal Church brought Mr. Ehrenfried into contact with the “youth crisis” and the use of illicit drugs in the 1970s. Those issues were brewing everywhere but were not immediately recognized in Concord. “Three teenagers slept overnight at the church and were found by parishioners Sunday morning,” he recalls. “Thanks to the Reverend Nigel Andrews and a parishioner, Gil Marley, this led to establishment of ‘The Place,’ where teens could gather without being hassled.” Mr. Ehrenfried helped manage the program and served as its spokesman at Concord town meetings. The program gained the respect of local police and the court and was recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as one of the most respected alternative youth services in the nation.

Although it was somewhat controversial in Concord, The Place was supported by Tom Curtin, CCHS guidance counselor, and John Merrifield, MD, director of inpatient psychiatric services at Emerson Hospital. "The program counseled and supported youth, located missing children and saved a number of young lives," says Mr. Ehrenfried, who documented the program in a book entitled Trinity Church and The Place.

Over the years, he has depended upon Emerson for care, including occasional surgery. “Paul Re, MD, repaired both of my rotator cuffs, and Andrea Resciniti, MD, performed laparoscopic gallbladder surgery,” he says. Last October, he had knee replacement surgery at Emerson performed by Donald Driscoll, MD. “Drs. Hoenig and Driscoll told me I should have the surgery because I still have some mileage left.”

Indeed, he remains busy and engaged. “I play jazz string bass,” he says. “I studied violin when I was young, but I’m self-taught on bass. I played for several years with the well-known Blue Horizon Jazz Band at the Sherborn Inn. These days, I principally do concerts in small groups."

His relationship with Emerson is a continuous, positive thread in his adult life. He has been a donor for 45 years. “It’s a great institution,” Mr. Ehrenfried says. “I admire its independence, satellite facilities throughout the region and strong connections with major Boston medical resources. Emerson has come a long way during the past half-century."