Michael Isnardi ’78 remembers everything about the computer lab at Bergen Catholic when he entered in the mid-’70s. It was an exciting moment in history; computers were just bursting on the scene, and Bergen Catholic’s lab was state of the art for its time, impressing young Michael. “We all knew computers helped put a man on the moon in 1969,” he says, “and with my love of math and logic I knew they would be a good fit for me.”
What made the experience even more special was the enthusiasm of his teachers for the STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) classes that he loved: “Just listening to the instructors and feeling their love for what they were teaching and how they infused you with that same excitement was so impressive.” His teachers also left a lasting impression for another very important reason: “They encouraged the type of individualized thinking that all good researchers need to have. And they made learning fun.”
This passion for science and technology nurtured at Bergen has continued throughout Michael’s career. After graduating from MIT with a combined BS/MS and then a Ph.D., he began his career at RCA Labs (now SRI International) in Princeton in 1986. Michael’s contributions have included helping develop DIRECTV and contributing to the development and standardization of the digital TV systems that are in use today. Michael has also received a Technical Emmy for his work. “The building I first worked in, where I still work today, is where color television was invented,” he says. “Being here makes me appreciate the legacy in which this building contributed to the modern technology we use today.” Michael lives with his wife, Catherine, and their four daughters in nearby Plainsboro, NJ.
Even with the time that has passed and the successes he has had, Michael often looks back fondly at his high school days: “Numbers may have placed me at the top of my class, but no matter our academic class ranking, my fellow classmates were all driven to excellence, and we supported each other during our memorable years at BC. What the numbers do not reveal are the talents, leadership skills and Christian fellowship that were nurtured at BC that have contributed to our success in our careers, our communities and our families.”
His advice for students interested in the future of technology? “It’s easy to be successful in high-tech fields, but in order to be truly happy, you need to know that through your work you’re actually improving lives in some way.”