Jim Fee Memorial

Speaker Series Named in Memory of Jim Fee

Jim Fee was one of the founders of the WPI Venture Forum over twenty years ago. In memory of Jim's passing, the WPI Venture Forum is developing a new program, The James F. Fee Speaker Series. Donations may be made in his honor.  Please send checks to Gina Betti, WPI Venture Forum, 100 Institute Road, Worcester, MA  01609.  Make the check payable to "WPI Venture Forum" and on the memo line, write "In memory of Jim Fee".

Watch video of Jim's family receiving a leaderhip award on Jim's behalf

James F. Fee, '65
May 18, 1943-October 4, 2010

James Francis Fee – In Memoriam

Jim Fee, WPI class of 1965, passed away peacefully on Monday, October 4, 2010.  He leaves behind his wife Joan, son Alex, daughter Molly, and sister Margie. He is predeceased by his sister Eleanor. He also leaves behind many nieces and nephews. Jim was a U.S. Navy veteran, an engineer, a small business consultant, and a great friend to all who knew him.

At recent events on campus, especially the September 14 opening of the WPI Venture Forum’s 20th anniversary season, Jim was his usual animated, witty and irrepressible self. Jim opened the program with this story.

"In the beginning, explained WPI Venture Forum Co-chair and Co-founder Jim Fee ’65, the WPI Venture Forum began as many entrepreneurial ventures do, when two like-minded people meet and identify an unmet need." He and classmate Jim Dunn ’65 met by chance at an MIT Enterprise Forum event in 1990. They quickly asked each other how they might start something similar at WPI.  While at Homecoming a few months later, they discussed the idea with electrical engineering professor Bill Grogan, and he identified as an additional resource Bill Gasko, an adjunct professor in entrepreneurship.

They began meeting in Gasko’s office. Each time they met it seemed there were more and more people. They moved to the conference room down the hall, and then to Higgins House.  Everyone agreed that they wanted to do something; the only question became what business model to use -- providing an annual seminar or monthly programs. The two camps debated until Gasko pounded his fist on the desk and said “let’s do them both.”  WPI Venture Forum programming began in 1991, and with the support of WPI and the founding sponsors, soon settled into its current format of creating and delivering ten programs a year.

Jim was an entrepreneur’s entrepreneur, helping anyone and everyone with their business launch, growth, and exit. He co-founded the WPI Venture Forum (and most recently co-chaired the group’s executive board), which now boasts a membership of several hundred. Jim orchestrated the anniversary program which included presentations by WPI president Dennis Berkey, Worcester mayor Joseph O’Brien, and Massachusetts secretary of economic development, Greg Bialecki. The program also included breakout sessions, during which Jim engaged the audience in hearing three past case presenters’ success stories.

Jim also assisted WPI’s Collaborative for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in countless ways, serving as a mentor to entrepreneurial students, a guest at the Collaborative’s Dinner with Entrepreneurs program, a speaker during its Global and National Entrepreneurship Week events, and a speaker at the CEO East Collegiate Entrepreneurs’ Conferences. Jim also served as a judge for the Robert H. Grant Invention Award competitions in WPI Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) design classes for several years.

The insights that Jim shared with entrepreneurs also made him a valuable friend – his good-natured challenges to conventional wisdom were at the center of many lively discussions. It was rarely dull when Jim was around. His energy and humor will be missed, but his hard work, strong ethic, passion, and spirit live on at WPI.

A memorial service was held Monday Oct. 25 in Lexington.  Jim’s family has asked that donations in Jim’s memory be made to the WPI Venture Forum, ref. In Memory of Jim Fee, c/o Gina Betti, WPI Venture Forum, 100 Institute Rd., Worcester, MA 01609.

A few of Jim’s close colleagues from his years with the WPI Venture Forum wanted to share their thoughts about him with the readers of Vantage.

“What an honor to have known and worked with Jim Fee these last 20 years. He was a true gentleman and trusted friend. He was kind, loyal, supportive and ever thoughtful. Jim was a humble man, never boasting about himself, but always inquiring about you, your work, and your family. Jim was a man you knew you could count on to be there for you without hesitation or fanfare or asking anything for himself.

Jim loved the WPI Venture Forum which he helped to create and lead. He looked forward to this year as Chairman as his gesture of support and 20 years of service for all those who were active and all who came to learn and grow. 

"Jim leaves a large and empty space in the many lives he touched. He enriched our lives just by his presence and ever-present laughter. We will be forever grateful for having known Jim Fee.” -- Bill Gasko, Co-Founder, WPI Venture Forum

“When I think of Jim, I think of passion, of spirit.  Over the 20 years I knew him, he continually embodied the entrepreneurial spirit.  He was this scrappy little guy who never stopped.  He believed in innovation, enterprise, and in giving.  It's through his passion that so many things were born, including the Venture Forum.  If I had to guess, I'd say he's up there gathering the entrepreneurs together right now.  Their gain, our loss.  We'll miss you, Jim!” --  Pamela H. Sager, Esq., Sager & Schaffer LLP

“For me Jim always personified the mission of the WPI Venture Forum and in so many ways is why it has been successful.  He led by example. He was always ready to help another entrepreneur. He understood the dream of the entrepreneur and the work required to make that dream a reality.  He was constructive in his input to the entrepreneur and never was disrespectful of the individual or idea, no matter how unrealistic he/she or it was.  He usually thought more about how something could be done versus why it would not work. He had success in his mind all the time. This is why people sought him out for his knowledge, philosophy and professionalism.  

"The WPI Venture Forum has been the beneficiary of Jim and his efforts for many years and those will be big shoes to fill.  But most of all l will remember Jim as just a wonderful person who always gave of himself and gave something back.  Thanks for making the Forum a success, Jim. We will do our best to follow your example.” – Robert Creeden, Partners 

“Jim was one of the three original founders of the WPI Venture Forum.  His exuberance and creativity were essential to its early success.  Along with co-founders Bill Gasko and Jim Dunn, Jim's welcoming and inclusive nature made people immediately feel excited and accepted at the Forum.  He will be remembered and much missed for a very long time.”   --Peter D. McDermott, Attorney, Banner & Witcoff, Ltd.

I can still hear you laughing Jim. You taught me so much about business people, especially how important encouragement is to them. Thank you for being my go-to guy for all things WPI Venture Forum. I will miss you dearly.” – Gina Betti, Administrative Director, WPI Venture Forum

Much of what is written here is from an article which appeared in the November issue of the Vantage newsletter. We thank Allison Chisolm for her beautiful piece on the impact that Jim had on so many people.

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Last modified: October 29, 2011 11:05:24