A venture capital ‘founding father,’ David T. Morgenthaler built a powerful legacy turning ideas into solutions for the betterment of society. Through honesty, integrity, pragmatism, and steadfast devotion to education, innovation, entrepreneurship, and the arts, Morgenthaler created and contributed to companies of value for true impact in healthcare and beyond.
In 1941, the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Morgenthaler was called to active duty in the US Army Corps of Engineers as a Second Lieutenant in the 21st Aviation Engineer Regiment. He was promoted to Captain, and eventually Major, where he served in the US Army Reserves until his discharge. Following military service, Morgenthaler joined an entrepreneurial team in founding a startup company – the first of many. He would serve as Director, President, or Chairman of more than 30 companies during his career, ranging from startups to billion-dollar multinational corporations and industries including metal fabrication, chemicals, information technology, life sciences, etc.
Morgenthaler is most well-known for a select few roles: CEO of Foseco, Inc., manufacturer of specialty chemicals financed by J.H. Whitney & Co., and Founding Partner of Morgenthaler Ventures. At Foseco, Morgenthaler built the company to become the largest manufacturer of exothermic chemicals for foundries and steel mills in the US, and eventually merged the company with its British licensor. In 1968 he resigned his position in Foseco and founded Morgenthaler Associates and subsequently, Morgenthaler Ventures – one of the few venture capitalists to do so using his own capital. Over the next 42 years, Morgenthaler Ventures would invest in more than 300 companies in information technology and life sciences.
Morgenthaler’s affiliation and leadership in groups like the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) and Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) speak to his leadership skills and standup qualities through troubling times. Morgenthaler was a founding director of the NVCA and served as Chairman of its Incentives Committee, working with the United States Congress to improve conditions for venture capital and entrepreneurship. Under his leadership, the Steiger Amendment to the Revenue Act of 1978 was enacted, resulting in a roll-back of the capital gains tax from 49% to 28%, and the Prudent Man Rule of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) was amended to allow pension funds to invest in venture capital and liberalize conditions for public offerings for small companies. An opponent of discrimination, he was acting Chairman for the Cleveland Chapter of the YPO when the first Jewish member was admitted and National Membership Chairman – with the power of final decision – upon admission of the first African-American. David was an active philanthropist and repeated award recipient – most notably funding the Morgenthaler Fellows Program at Cleveland Clinic and receiving the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the NVCA.
The David T. Morgenthaler Catalyst Award (MCA)
For 100 years, Cleveland Clinic physicians and researchers have made innovative breakthroughs that changed the course of medicine. Believing that our patients deserve the best outcomes possible, our caregivers push the boundaries of discovery every day and foster the institute’s culture of innovation. David Morgenthaler was a steadfast partner in support of this mission. To memorialize his legacy, the Morgenthaler Foundation has created the David T. Morgenthaler Catalyst Award (MCA) – a One Million Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars donation to Cleveland Clinic.
The purpose of the MCA is to allocate crucial seed funding to launch promising medical technologies, explore novel research ideas, and design life-changing healthcare solutions. Targeting high-risk projects with extraordinary potential, the award is intended to move life science, medical device, and digital health innovations from bench to bedside. The MCA will catalyze up to three innovative projects a year with applications reviewed on a revolving cycle. Projects internal to Cleveland Clinic and as part of spin-off companies related to Cleveland Clinic intellectual property are eligible for consideration.
“We are very grateful for the Morgenthaler family’s generosity and commitment to research, education, and innovation through this gift in David’s name,” said Serpil Erzurum, MD, Chief Research & Academic Officer at Cleveland Clinic. “The Morgenthaler Catalyst Award will bring game-changing solutions for our patients everywhere.”
With great appreciation, Cleveland Clinic acknowledges the profound impact this generous contribution from the Morgenthaler Foundation will have on the future development of crucial medical technologies. Cleveland Clinic and the Morgenthaler family wish to recognize Former President & CEO, Toby Cosgrove, MD, for his guidance and stewardship in establishing this award.