Chapter Eternal: Life-Saving Technologist, L. Dennis Shapiro ’55 – MIT
L. Dennis Shapiro, a pioneer in the personal emergency response systems industry, passed into the Chapter Eternal on February 16, 2021. Shapiro was a dedicated electronics engineer, researcher, inventor, entrepreneur, veteran and philanthropist.
Life Saving Technology Pioneer
Shapiro is perhaps best known as a pioneer of emergency alert technology, which ironically became well known through the, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” television commercials. After experimenting in radio waves and home security, he led the development of a 24-hour alert system for Lifeline Systems, heading the company from 1980 until he retired in 1988. Lifeline saved countless lives, and to this day enables elderly people and others with medical needs to live independently.
Student, Veteran, Entreprenuer
Shapiro earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at MIT in 1955 and 1957. As a graduate student, he conducted research on FM radio signals for his thesis at the school’s Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE). After graduating, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Hanscom Field, in Bedford, Mass. There he worked as a R&D officer at the base’s laboratory.
As he returned to civilian life, he founded Aerospace Research, later renamed Aritech. There he developed equipment for synchronizing clocks and motion detector technology. His innovations enabled him to win contracts with NASA and other government agencies.
In 1975 he sold Aritech to ADT, serving as Vice President until 1978. In 1978 he became CEO of Lifeline Systems. In 1988 he retired as President of Lifeline, but continued to serve as chairman until Lifeline was sold to Philips in 2006.
Philanthropist, Historian and man of many Interests
Shapiro is remembered for his philanthropy, particularly his work on behalf of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
He also had a passion for history and collecting artifacts. Before his death, Shapiro and his wife donated a collection of more than 300 rare items related to American presidential administrations to the Huntington Library and Art Museum. The museum established The Shapiro Center in their honor.
Shapiro was a passionate pilot, sailor, ice skater, fisherman, skier, ham radio operator and more.
He was awarded the Big Pi from Pi Lambda Phi in 1997.