Russell E. Borland: A partner, mentor, and friend


This string of words are of the type one hopes to avoid, but is inevitable if we live long enough.

I received a call from Russell Borland’s wife Loretta yesterday sharing the painful news that Russell had suddenly passed from this earth this Memorial Day weekend at their home in northern California.

Russell and I had been friends since he was a regular customer of a business my wife and I owned in Washington nearly 30 years ago; one of very few who also became close friends. When I first met Russell he was working for a start-up software company few had yet heard of.  The early 1980s were busy for us both; I was running a more traditional small business while Russell was deeply engaged at Microsoft with young teams in developing products that most of us have been using every day since.

We found commonality in many areas; including a passion for learning, work, meritocracy, and justice. If not for his practical side, Russell could have been a great professor as he enjoyed teaching and mentoring inquisitive minds, including my own. During conversations he was a living encyclopedia; one with a healthy sense of humor, irony, and satire that cannot be replicated with computers.

Russell was exceptionally intelligent even for academics who like himself  “received entirely too much education”, and because of his intellect he thought labels were a necessary evil for categorization; although he was unimpressed with social classifications that often lead to injustice.  Not only did he not wear his PhD from the University of Washington on his sleeves, I only discovered it after we had been friends for two years. Oh how many have I known who could learn much from Russell Borland?

When it came time to convert my consulting firm to one of the first incubators in the Internet era, I called Russell first and he became an angel investor and advisor that lasted through many challenging times until this day. Our first major venture was a small business network that helped shape future billionaires and countless mom & pops throughout the world. He was still working in Redmond when he officially joined our board—an approval that he noted with displeasure took months. By then Russell had long since traded business management for crafting books, spending the bulk of his career at Microsoft Press as a master technical writer authoring more than a dozen titles.

When Russell retired from Microsoft in the late 1990s, his longevity was surpassed only by Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer.  He had helped build one of the greatest successes in human history, and observed the many side affects, some of which weighed heavily on his soul at times; providing a level of wisdom rarely found.  In his capacity as angel investor and advisor to our ventures, Russell contributed similarly.  He wasn’t a marketer or social butterfly, rather he was intensely interested in product development, innovation, and improving the world, realizing better than most the great challenges we face on this earth as well as the commitment necessary to overcome great obstacles.

Despite our long lasting friendship through good times and bad, when it came to business Russell was a pro. He understood and disclosed his limitations, did not hesitate to contribute where he was strongest, and never to my knowledge withheld the truth; all of which are essential for entrepreneurs.

On a personal level Russell enjoyed reading novels and spending time at his historic farm house with his wife Loretta and their dogs. He was involved with several canine groups, including field trials and the Humane Society—another passion we shared. A self proclaimed recluse in retirement, Russell loved long trips on his Harley, visiting old friends and meeting new people all across the U.S.

While this tragic news comes as a shock—we had discussed improving healthcare several times this week, and his passing is a great loss, we take comfort that our old friend passed quickly on a nice Spring day at his peaceful home. I will miss my old friend. I am a better person for having known him.

Mark Montgomery

Advertisements

About Mark Montgomery
I am a technologist, serial entrepreneur, business consultant, recovered VC, and inventor with interests that are both broad and deep across multiple disciplines, including organizational management, computing, communications, economics, sociology, science and nature, among others. For the past several years I have been founder and CEO of Kyield, which offers a distributed operating system for achieving optimal yield of executable knowledge across large data networks. The patented AI system core acts to unify networks with adaptive data tailored to each entity with continuous predictive analytics designed to significantly reduce ongoing costs while accelerating productivity, and generally make life more satisfying and productive for knowledge workers and their organizations. We provide popular free white papers, use case scenarios, and other information at http://www.kyield.com .

13 Responses to Russell E. Borland: A partner, mentor, and friend

  1. Karen Rivelli says:

    Mark,
    I am Russell’s younger sister. Thank you so much for an insight into my brother’s life. Of course, my perspective has been different, but he was a great brother and I will miss his wit, his laugh, his love and generosity. Thank you again for writing such an eloquent piece in his honor.

  2. Berta T. Anderson says:

    Thank you Mark for writing this beautiful piece about Russell. I am sorry for your loss.

  3. Really great to hear from Karen and Berta — thanks for your comments. My best to all who share the loss of Russell. — Mark

  4. Dave Weisenbeck says:

    Sounds like you were a really good friend, he was my favorite uncle for as you know his one of a kind sense of humor. Thank you for the kind words. – Dave

  5. Linda White says:

    Mark,

    Thank you for the kind words you shared about my brother, Russell. Growing up with Russell was extremely challenging in a good way. We developed a great method of arguing, which proved to be very humorous. I will always remember his sense of humor and kindness. Leaving us so soon has left a void in our family and he will be missed. It is a great honor to be related to him.

    Linda Borland White

    • Sara Wall says:

      To Linda & Karen:
      My deepest sympathy in the loss of your dear brother. You girls and your brother attended school and church with me and my sister. Russ and my sister, Sandy Slothower, dated throughout Russ’s senior year in high school and it seems as though he practically lived at our house during that year. I came to know him as a very kind, sweet and fun-loving guy who loved to tease and make us laugh. (Poor guy, whenever he wanted to take my sister out, my parents always made him drag me along too! But Russ was always good natured about it and made the best of it!) I will always remember him fondly.

      You may or may not know that Sandy passed away 8 years ago (May 29, 2002). I suspect that she was one of the angels who greeted Russ in his passage from this life to the next one.

      I wish you peace and comfort as you grieve your loss. Hold tightly to the precious memories you have of your brother, they become even more precious as time passes.

      Sally

  6. sandi nielsen says:

    sorry for your loss he was a great friend to me …………he use to put me and my friend arleen up on top of the lockers and run off.but after that he sort of took use under his wing and pretected us,he was our body guard…………..he was so great .sandra nielsen (russell)

  7. GRANT WARTENA says:

    ALOHA MARK AND ANY FAMILY OR FRIENDS THAT MIGHT READ THIS NOTE. I WAS TOLD BY JOANN A FELLOW GRADUATE WITH ME AND RUSS, FROM WEST LINN HIGH SCHOOL . TO READ YOUR TRIBUTE TO RUSS, IT IS BEAUTIFUL AND INSPIRING, THANK YOU, FOR GIVING ME AND US A GLIMPSE INTO RUSSELL’S LIFE AN EXPERIENCE. WE AT WEST LINN HIGH SCHOOL KNEW RUSS AS A BRILLIANT PERSON, WHO OF COURSE WAS VOTED MOST LIKELY TO SUCCEED. IT SOUNDS BY YOUR WRITING HE WAS JUST THAT. WHEN YOU ARE OF THE CLASS OF 64 AND TURN 64 WHICH MOST OF US DO THIS YEAR, IT IS HARD TO BELIEVE, WE COULD ACTUALLY NOT BE HERE BY THIS TIME NEXT YEAR. I ONLY SAW RUSS ONE TIME AFTER GRADUATION, HE WAS LIVING IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, AND IT WAS 15 YEARS AGO I BELIEVE. WE TALKED A BIT OF HIS LIFE. I NEVER NEW HE HAD A PHD, BUT OF COURSE WOULD HAVE EXPECTED IT. WE HAD A GREAT TIME AT THAT REUNION AND I KNOW HE LOVED NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, AS I DO. I WANT HIS WIFE TO KNOW, IF SHE MIGHT READ THIS NOTE, MY DEEPEST SYMPATHY FOR HER. SHE AND ALL THAT KNEW RUSS, KNOW WHAT A GREAT GUY HE WAS. FROM HIS HIGH SCHOOL FRIEND’S WE TOO FELT THE SAME WAY.

    ALOHA AND MAY WE ALL FIND PEACE IN RUSSELL’S LIFE, THAT SEEMED WELL LIVED. FULL OF CARING, GIVING, AND USING HIS BRILLANCE TO THE BETTERMENT OF MAN AND ANIMAL
    WITH LOVE GRANT WARTENA

  8. Terry Rohe says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings about Russ with us. I went to Willamette Grade School and West Linn High School with Russ. We were in many of the same classes in high school, most memorably Mr. Smith’s advanced math series. He was very intelligent and an excellent student who had a desire to understand subjects both widely and deeply. He looked so carefree at the last reunion he attended and it was a pleasure to talk with him and to hear about his career and life. I send my sympathy to his family and friends.

  9. Pingback: Realizing the theory: Yield Management of Knowledge « Kyield

  10. Russell was my cousin that I never met but heard really good things about. My younger brother Robert (Bob) Borland talked about him to me at various times as they attended the same high school at the same time with Russell one year ahead. Bob told me that Russell was an excellent student and a really nice guy and that they always nodded to one another in school but didn’t talk much. Perhaps they were both a little shy at that time. I wish I had met him but I missed out there. We Borland’s are proud of what Russell accomplished.

    William Borland

  11. Pingback: 2010 in review « Kyield

  12. Pingback: Book Review: What’s Holding You Back?, By Robert J. Herbold « Kyield

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: