DAC's Dynamic Duo: Marie & Pat Pistilli

I can’t say when I first met Marie, but she lived up to her billing, and I’ve always adored her. She has always been professional and kind, but firm. What sets her apart in my mind is her sense of fairness. DAC had, for many years, a restriction on the height of the booths that sit on the exhibit floor. I call this the “Marie Rule” because she wanted equality for each and every vendor.

I do remember the first time I saw Pat Pistilli. He was driving a flatbed cart, normally used to haul equipment around the DAC exhibit floor during the trade show set up that year. The cart had a sign that you couldn’t miss that read: “Pat’s Taxi.” Character flashed through my mind.

It was several years before I got to know Pat and appreciate just how much he’s done for the electronics design community. Many notable people have come after Pat, making incredible advancements to CAD, CAE and EDA, but it was Pat who understood the importance of networking, communicating and sharing ideas with peers. He had the foresight and understanding to know that bringing together individuals working in obscurity in some internal lab was the way to foster innovation. With Marie at his side, he organized the first Design Automation Conference and has been there for each since.

Pat and Marie started out as DAC volunteers for the first 20 or so years of the conference’s existence. They formed MP (Marie and Pat) Associates, once it became clear that the conference and exhibit floor took much more effort than what volunteers could manage. Another 20 plus years later, DAC’s going strong under the stewardship of its three sponsors, the management of MP Associates and the many, many hard-working volunteers from throughout the industry.

Pat and Marie are a remarkable couple.

Mike Lorenzetti – I served on the DAC executive committee from 1988 to 1997 and as general chair of the 31st DAC in 1994. I wasn't around for the founding of the conference, but enjoyed working with Pat and Marie. Their contributions cannot be overstated. In my opinion, DAC has remained the premier conference in EDA, because it has carefully kept a balance between EDA professionals, academia, and the EDA industry.

I spent many hours working with Marie as the EDA industry chair (1996-1997), helping exhibitors understand why "circus acts" were not in the best interest of the conference, and that keeping an air of professionalism was important to maintain the participation of the professionals and academics that are key to the conference. If EDA professionals (users and developers alike) could only afford to go to one conference per year, they would consistently choose DAC because, it "has it all" in large part because Pat and Marie maintained the balance needed between all participants.

Since moving to Colorado in 2000, I have come to know Pat and Marie more personally. We join them for tailgate parties at University of Colorado home football games (Pat and Marie are major contributors to the program, sponsoring a scholarship for a player each year since they've been in Colorado), as well as other occasions. I continue to be impressed by the closeness of their extended family (children, grandchildren, sons-in-law, siblings, and close friends). It is easy to see that they have a clear view of what is important in life, and you can see it in their interactions with family and friends.


MP Associates today …

When Marie and Pat Pistilli turned to work on the Design Automation Conference full time, after 20 years managing the event on a volunteer basis, they established their company, MP Associates. Marie and Pat worked in the company for over 16 years, from 1984 to 2000. When they retired, two very capable people took over for them – Lee Wood and Kevin Lepine.  Kevin and Lee serve as Co-presidents of MP Associates, acting as Conference Manager and Exhibit Manager, respectively. The offices continue to be in Colorado, and Marie and Pat continue to cheer the company on from the sidelines.

I had a chance to talk with both Lee and Kevin recently – two different conversations, but one message. A huge debt of gratitude to Marie and Pat, who mentored Lee and Kevin and trusted them to take the company forward. Here are notes from those conversations:

Lee Wood – Pat was at Bell Labs for 29 years before retiring from the company to form MP Associates with Marie. Marie and Pat decided to do that because handling the conference and the exhibitors had become too wieldy of a job for them as volunteers. Everyone involved with DAC knew that professional management was needed at that point to grow the conference.

When they started MP Associates in 1984, Marie and Pat thought they could do the work part-time, 6 months out of the year. I don’t think they realized at the time how extensive a commitment it was going to become for them. They ended up working full time in MP Associates for over 16 years, until their retirement in 2000.

I started working with Marie and Pat in 1990 – this year is my 18th DAC! Kevin and I both started at that point, and rotated through various jobs [in our first few years]. We both spent time in registration, in exhibits, on the conference side, and in other areas until we ultimately found our niches. I now work on the exhibit side of things, and Kevin is in operations.

Kevin and I had terrific apprenticeships – Marie and Pat were great mentors. Really from the very first day with the company, they were always incredibly open with us about how to do things, particularly in terms of introducing us and helping us to meet people, helping us to get involved with the conference, and from the standpoint of having mentors to show us the ropes. When Marie and Pat retired in June 2000 and turned MP Associates over to us, it was relatively easy for us. I’ve taken over for Marie, and Kevin has taken over for Pat.

Of course, nobody could ever replace people like Pat or Marie, so the big challenge for us has been to put our own stamp on things. However, even today, we still find ourselves in the office at times saying, “What would Marie or Pat have done in this situation?” They really had a strong presence in everything.

Early on, DAC evolved from a technical standpoint to include exhibits, but both Marie and Pat had a strong feeling that they didn’t want the exhibits to become too much of a distraction, or a show. They worked to keep DAC very technical, with very strict regulations for the show floor and costumes. I remember at one point, Joe Costello was dressed up in a Dracula costume on the show floor and Marie told him that it would not be allowed. [Lee chuckled.]

There was Marie – at all of 5’2” – telling 6’7” Joe Costello what to do. And sure enough, he obeyed!

Another time, there was a company doing some sort of alligator theme in their booth, but the DAC Executive Committee deemed it to be a violation of show rules. The people from the company started throwing their stuffed alligators at Marie, and she came within a hair’s breadth of sending the company home. Those were the crazy days, back when there were big battles for booth locations and other such things on the show floor, but Marie was always out there managing things and keeping things under control.

We don’t have to go to such extremes anymore, but no one forgets that Marie ran things in a really disciplined manner. And she always treated issues with fairness, as well. For Marie, a startup with a 10’x10’ booth was treated with the same respect and fairness as a large, established company. She was always a strong advocate for the little startups, for the companies that really make the industry exciting. Not that the big companies don’t make things exciting, of course!

The EC Exhibitor Liaison committee is very important here. It consists of 10 or 12 people who come from various sizes of the exhibitors, small companies all the way through to the Big 3. We meet 3 times a year to review different initiatives. The idea for the Pavilion Theater, the suites, and so forth, all came out of this Exhibitor Liaison Committee. They have been instrumental in keeping the balance between the technical and the commercial aspects of DAC.

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