By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Southborough – To say that life has been an adventure for Stanley Tanenholtz is an understatement. The 81-year-old grew up in Cambridge where he attended the all-male Rindge School of Technical Arts (currently Cambridge Rindge and Latin). It was here that his interest in all things scientific was cultivated, and it was here that he put his studies to use, building a tesla coil – an electrical resonant transformer circuit used to produce high voltage, low current, high frequency alternating current electricity.
Following high school, Tanenholtz joined the Army and headed to Fort Leonard Wood Army base in Missouri for basic training. Because he had been in the reserves, he joined as a private first class (Pfc.). With this rank, he was put in charge of his unit's barracks and was offered the opportunity to run a civilian craft and auto body shop where he worked with casting and leather, and even made a guitar from scratch.
During the Korean War, Tanenholtz was sent to Oberammergau in the Alps where he was in charge of a photo lab. His roommate was Arthur Frommer (of Frommer's travel guides).
Tanenholtz recalls Frommer saying, “Stan, I think I will write a book on traveling around Europe for $5 a day.”
Tanenholtz remained in Germany for about a year and a half. When he returned to the states he attended Boston University (BU) where he earned his bachelors in physics. Later, he would earn advanced degrees at Northeastern University.
After receiving his degree from BU, Tanenholtz married, moved to Natick, and accepted a job at Natick Laboratories doing research in heat transfer and testing armor. He wrote a paper on “measuring velocity and what happens to particles when they hit a target simultaneously” and submitted it to the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers Journal. Not only did his paper get published, Tanenholtz's picture was put on the cover of the journal. In 1964 he set up a shock wave facility for Natick Labs.
A few years later, Tanenholtz moved to Southborough where he became interested in building electrical vehicles. He left Natick Labs and began his own company converting cars to run on electricity. Under the name of Electric Transport Systems, Tanenholtz completed three vehicles. He used to drive the cars to schools to show the students and, he said, he had “newspaper people” following him around.
“In the 70s there were long lines in gas stations and my phone was ringing off the hook,” he said. “Then the next year the gas prices came down and we went down the tubes.”
The approximately 150-year-old home Tanenholtz purchased in Southborough for $15,000 sat adjacent to the Boston and Worcester Street Railway. The property was home to a chicken farm. Tanenholtz and his wife raised three daughters, Laurel, Holly and Fern, in this home where he still lives 50 years later.
Tanenholtz was the clerk for the first capital budget planning committee in Southborough. He was also asked by then Marlborough Mayor Joe Ferrecchia to set up a data processing system for the City of Marlborough. Later, he became budget director as well. When the environment became “too political,” Tanenholtz left, only to receive a call from the town of Framingham asking him to set up their first ever data processing system – which he did.
Always on the lookout for new opportunities, Tanenholtz decided he wanted to teach so he joined the staff at Bentley College as both a physics and a math professor. He also put together a course called “Energy Alternatives,” which he taught for 18 years. Dubbed “The Singing Professor,” Tanenholtz retired after 30 years teaching, but still remains connected to the institution as a member of the Sustainability Committee.
“I decided to give it up because I loved teaching and interacting with the students, but I agonized over grading,” he said. “I would give partial credit and have them come in after class to see what I could do about helping them.”
Today, Tanenholtz remains as busy as ever. He sings with the Assabet Valley Master Singers (a member for approximately 25 years), as well as the Southborough Senior Singers; he is on the Green Technology and Recycle Committee in town; he is the professional activities committee chair for the Worcester county section of the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers (IEEE); and he is also an avid photographer who has a fascination with trees.
“I don's like to relax,” he said. “Now that I am retired I am busier than ever.”
Tanenholtz lives by the motto “Be nice to everybody.” And among his many talents, he claims to have a special rapport with “nature.” He claims to know, “All of the languages of all of the animals.”
When asked if he has any regrets, Tanenholtz answered, “I don's think I have any regrets. Oh my heavens. I have a roof over my head, I eat three meals a day, and I drive my own car. I meet wonderful people and have lots of friends and wonderful neighbors. How could I complain about anything?”