Of Entrepreneurs and Innovators

It almost sounds like the opening of a joke—"A businessman and the guy who created the CAT scanner are sitting around eating chicken wings and talking about wheelchairs..."—but that's pretty much how one of Northeast Ohio's most prominent businesses began. And it's how Case Western Reserve University expects tomorrow's companies will blossom.

Joseph B. "J.B." Richey II, a 1962 graduate of the Case Institute of Technology, is the engineer who adapted X-ray tube and electronics technology to create the first full-body CAT scanner. The business guru is A. Malachi Mixon III, whose marketing prowess was originally deemed trivial by his new colleague, Richey.

"Richey said to me, 'I don't even know why we need you. My product is so good I don't even need a salesman,' " Mixon recalls.

But eventually Richey's technology lagged behind other companies that created better bells and whistles for new and improved machines, and it was Mixon's sales skills that kept the company strong.

"I went up to Mal one day, and I said, 'I don't know how you're still selling our CAT scanners because this other company's got one that's better with better images,' " Richey says.

Mutual respect ensued, and—over free wings—together they formed Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare Corporation, a top manufacturer of home medical products.

The duo hopes to mirror their cross-discipline success in today's students through their support of a Richey-Mixon Building, a space that will be dedicated to enhancing the university's culture of creativity and entrepreneurship.

"This building will create a physical space for students to roll up their sleeves and take their ideas as far as they can," says Case Western Reserve technology and management scholar Gary Wnek, PhD. "Ultimately, we want to educate holistic thinkers who are collaborative problem-solvers and see the new business potential in raw ideas."

Richey and Mixon plan to have offices in the building after they retire to support the startup of new businesses. "We want to be a part of helping the next generation of young people with vision take some risks and generate some companies and a new birth for Cleveland," Mixon says