2005 Distinguished Achievement Award: James Berbee

// Mechanical Engineering

Tags: alumni, Engineers' Day, James Berbee, ME E-Day

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James G. Berbee
Berbee Information Networks Corporation
Madison, WI

Long before most people had even heard of the Internet, James G. Berbee recognized the potential of computer networks and information technology to transform business. In 1993, fueled by his vision and a willingness to take risks, Berbee left his position as systems engineer at IBM to start Berbee Information Networks Corporation in his basement. Within a year, the company established its renowned partnership with the catalog retailer Lands’ End, and gained enough employees to move out of its basement quarters.

Today, just a decade later, it has become a top provider of hosted computing, network consulting, data storage, security and other e-business services, with more than 700 staff members, offices in 11 Midwest cities and customers throughout the country. Berbee has also developed partnerships with many leading information technology companies including Microsoft, Cisco and IBM. It was named Cisco’s Regional Partner of the Year in 2001, U.S. Partner of the Year in 2003, and Global IP Partner of the Year in 2004.

Equal to Berbee’s success in business is his commitment to community service and charitable giving. His company is a major contributor to the United Way of Dane County, on whose board of directors he has served since 2000. Through employee donations, volunteerism, and contributions of equipment and services, the company also supports many other organizations, including the American Cancer Society, the Madison Opera, the Madison Art Center, the Wisconsin AIDS Ride, and the new City of Madison swimming pool. This past November, the company held its first “Berbee Derby” running race, a charity event that raised $30,000 to benefit Berbee’s Technology Education Foundation, which helps area schools and non-profit organizations further educational goals through the use of technology. Berbee is also known for the respect, generosity and kindness he shows to his employees. In recognition, they surprised him and his wife with a 10-day vacation to Switzerland in 1998.

Berbee holds a BS and MS in mechanical engineering and an MBA in finance from UW-Madison. He maintains close ties to the university, currently serving on the UW Foundation Board of Directors and the Chancellor’s Board of Advisors. Berbee is also a four-time Ironman triathlete, a multi-engine pilot, and an avid traveler and hiker who has scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Rainier. He and his wife, Karen Walsh, live in Madison with four of their own cats and usually several foster felines.