News

Tom Pirelli '65: Journeying With Youth

11/25/2021

Alumni Profile: Tom Pirelli '65

By Pat Dubee '64

Originally published in the Summer/Fall 2021 edition of the Loyola Today

Tom Pirelli arrived at Loyola High School for Grade 9 after three years at Notre Dame Middle School in Rome and a one year stint at Marymount. Among his favourite memories of Loyola was when his senior football team won the city championship after an undefeated season. His not-so-favourite memory is when he accidentally launched a rocket he was building for the annual Montreal Science Fair competition....immediately beneath principal Fr. Ken Casey, SJ’s office! Needless to say, Fr. Casey was not pleased but couldn’t have been too upset because he arranged for Tom to reside in the newly constructed college dorms at Hingston Hall when Tom refused to return to NYC with his parents for his last year of high school.

Upon graduation from Loyola, Tom attended Princeton University where he majored in engineering and played rugby, a sport he enjoyed until he retired from the game at the age of 50.

After graduating from Princeton in 1969, Tom worked as an inventor and a computer programmer in Princeton, NJ for six years. During that time he invented the first electronic cash register and installed it in a local liquor store. Tom then relocated to Chicago to work for the American Hospital Supply Corporation. From 1981 to 1997, Tom was the Chairman and CEO of Enterprise Systems, Inc., a healthcare software firm based in Wheeling, IL that he founded in April, 1981.

Enterprise Systems was one of the first companies to offer personal computer business systems for use in hospitals, starting with Apple II computers, followed by IBM PCs. Enterprise was also the first company to integrate touch screens and bar code scanners for tracking hospital supplies with its innovative TouchScan product, with hospital installations starting in 1994.

In 1997 after selling his medical-software company to healthcare giant McKesson, Tom and his wife Jane, established the Arial Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to working with children, individuals with impairments and economically disadvantaged families. They continued the work of the Arial Foundation for 25 years.

When Tom served on the Advisory Board for the FIRST organization, he taught robotics classes, and sponsored robotics teams for middle school and high school students. Tom’s Arial Foundation sponsored the FIRST LEGO Robotics competition for the Chicago Public School system for two years, involving more than 1,000 middle school students in an educational, fun competition which Tom designed for their educational benefit and to show them that learning can be fun.

Loyola was also the beneficiary of Tom’s commitment to introducing students to robotics when he sponsored a FIRST robotics team, The Northern Knights. In 2006, the team won the international championship in Atlanta competing against over 1,200 schools. Today, the FIRST Robotics Club is more active than ever with students from Sacred Heart Academy having joined the team.

As a former football and rugby player, Tom recognized the importance of playing sports and has provided athletic fields for youngsters in underprivileged communities. He has built and donated four, full sized sports fields, used by youth rugby and other sports. Another area that Tom and Jane focussed upon was housing for the poor. They had spent time in Mexico with various organizations building homes and soon realized that there could be a far more efficient way to build those homes. Tom began thinking of creating easy-to-assemble interlocking metal wall panels that provided polyurethane insulation. Once convinced that this approach could work he then designed custom machinery that could produce the panels in assembly-line fashion in a facility near the construction site to provide jobs for the local economy.

By building panels that could interlock somewhat like LEGO pieces, teams of eight to twelve people could build a home in one day. Students from high schools that Tom had assisted by funding FIRST robotics teams were invited to send groups of students to Ensenada to build homes. Loyola is proud to have been one of the schools that made an annual visit to assist in this inspiring initiative. Unfortunately, due to health reasons the Pirellis had to stop their operations in Mexico after six years and 66 homes were built for homeless families.

Always willing to take up a challenge, the Pirelli’s have been very busy throughout the pandemic. Because of the increased demand on food banks they built a hydroponic system on their property to grow tomatoes and lettuce. They then rented their next door neighbour’s one acre backyard and grew cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale, beans, peas and tomatoes for the local food banks during the Florida winter growing season.

Realizing the challenges that communities are now facing in helping the homeless, Tom has resurrected his designs for a waterless toilet that he had installed in the homes in Ensenada. He is at the stage where he is seeking city government’s approvals. Once approved, he plans to provide these toilets at no cost to the communities that are most in need of help with the sanitation issues associated with homeless communities in parks, alleys, underpasses and vacant lots.

Tom is very proud of his Loyola education and the one thing that he mentions most often is how impactful that education was in making him conscious of those who are most in need of help. He is a fine example of what Loyola means when it talks of being a man for others.

Read more articles from the Summer/Fall 2021 edition of Loyola Today.

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