Bernie Dillon, who died on January 7th, was a founding father of today’s modern information technology industry in Ireland. His illustrious career spanned both sides of the Atlantic, working with leading US corporations, including Dataproducts and Raytheon. Most notably, he will be remembered as the inspirational chief executive of Amdahl Ireland.
It was my good fortune to be introduced to Bernie in late 1978 by Dr David Hanna, head of the electronics division at IDA Ireland. I remember the meeting to this day, with both men intensively discussing the need for Ireland to develop as an advanced technology country. As a young man, I sat there listening with awe.
IDA’s takeaway from that meeting was Bernie’s incisive view on the future importance of semiconductors and his certainty that Ireland must embrace this disruptive technology. It meant a great deal to him when, in 1989, Intel announced its plans to establish a major semiconductor facility at Leixlip, Co Kildare.
Bernie was an accomplished technologist, having received his degree in electrical engineering from University College Dublin, and his master’s in electronics from Northeastern University in Boston.
In future years, in recognition of his deep knowledge of technology and his outstanding career in business, he was made a fellow of the Institute of Engineers and a fellow of the Irish Management Institute.
But my own memories of him are as a visionary, an inspirational leader of people, an entrepreneur, a valued adviser, a true Irishman. Our paths crossed again when he was appointed chief executive at Amdahl Ireland. Under his direction, the scale of activities undertaken at the Swords facility expanded dramatically to employ over 800 people. Staff worked in the production of sophisticated mainframe computers for supply to international markets. Irish computer systems engineers, maintenance technicians, supervisors and staff members travelled to Sunnyvale, California, to be immersed in world-leading technology. They returned to Ireland with that knowledge. The facility was doubled in size to 160,000 sq ft, and became Amdahl’s sales and marketing lead site for Europe.
Leading technology companies now came from all over the world to visit this world-class site in Ireland.
Bernie was an inspirational leader who treated everyone equally. Many staff members, male and female, benefitted from his mentorship and guidance. Many careers blossomed. Colleagues of Bernie’s at Amdahl went on to have great careers. Some became chief executives of leading technology companies in Ireland. Others established their own high-technology company.
Bernie changed people’s lives for the better.
It was during his tenure at Amdahl that he chaired the first taskforce at Aer Lingus from 1993 to 1995. In later years, he served as a council member of the Economic and Social Research Institute. When he retired from full-time employment in 1996, his vision, extensive experience and wisdom were much sought after. He joined the Enterprise Ireland mentor programme, advised numerous companies, and became a non-executive director of 11 emerging companies and served as chairman on five of these.
Bernie’s daughter Lisa is a distinguished and valued member of the board of Enterprise Ireland today.
Bernie had the ambition to envision a better Ireland, a confident Ireland ready to take its place among the advanced technology nations of the world. He earned the deep respect of colleagues and friends alike.
He chose to make a difference with his life and to help others. He succeeded.
On my own behalf and on behalf of all my colleagues at IDA Ireland, I extend our deepest sympathy to Bernie’s wife Kathleen and to Maura, Patrick, Lisa and John and the extended Dillon family.
(Chairman of the Board,