David D. Lattanze was ahead of his time in the business world. Having lost both parents and a sibling by the age of 19, he was driven by a desire to achieve excellence in all that he attempted. His driving force was the belief that everything could be achieved through education. He earned a degree in history from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., served in the U.S. Army from 1955 to 1958 in Okinawa, Japan, married in 1959, and attended law school at American University and Catholic University. Although he never sat for the bar exam, his thirst for knowledge never ceased. In 1981-82 he attended the Executive MBA program at Loyola University and earned his MBA degree. He became a professor-on-loan from IBM to Morgan State University in 1983 and returned to his full IBM responsibilities in 1984.
In 1959 he was employed by IBM Corporation, in the Washington, D.C., education center, where he learned the inner workings of computers and was then assigned to different regions of the country to educate other IBMers in the new technology called computers. Later, salespersons began requesting that he make calls to customers to discuss the advantages and possibilities of computers in the business world.
In 1963 he transferred to Baltimore, Md. where he became a member of the IBM systems engineer department. It was in this capacity that he began to finely tune his ability to assist the sales force and the customer in utilizing computers to better improve the bottom line of a business. He enjoyed the challenge of learning the customer’s business and daily manual functions, then planning how to streamline, improve, and accelerate these functions using a computer. He would seek out and sit for hours with staff personnel and have them explain their job functions to him in detail and the ways that they interacted with other departments. Those who sat with him during one of these sessions were rarely aware that his mind was not only absorbing their functions, but imagining the “whole picture” in relation to the company. He was one of the first people to frequently utilize the phrases “top down management” and “architectural design” of a system.
In the 1960s, computers were commonly utilized solely by the accounting departments. It was inconceivable that a machine could possibly help with production, traffic control, inventory control, material waste, and other common problems of industrialization. Many innovative thoughts and theories were presented to senior management in the Baltimore business community. Some were accepted and some were believed to be “far-fetched." Ironically, it was the senior executives who had spent time in the accounting departments of their respective corporations who were the first to understand the benefits and advantages of using a computer within the corporation.
In 1969, David was promoted to systems engineer manager in the Bethlehem, Pa. office of IBM. In this position he trained and supervised 16 system engineers who worked in conjunction with the office’s sales force. It was in this position that he became acquainted with the Bethlehem Steel Corporation CEO and other executives of the corporation.
In 1973, he returned to the Baltimore, Md. office. Due to his reputation and knowledge of business practices, he became an industry marketing specialist. He services were in great demand by the sales force of IBM and he would be asked to assist in designing and implementing large systems in all fields of business, including insurance, production, banking, and health industry support.
In the late 1970s, he took an assignment working with the I.T. staff of Bethlehem Steel Corporation at Sparrows Point to develop a complete system for the production of steel, as well as instantaneous reports to corporate offices in Bethlehem, Pa. He discussed with a production manager the possibility that steel could be measured to exact specifications as it emerged from the hot ovens. This procedure alone prevented enormous amounts of steel from being sent to the scrap heap due to incorrect calibrations, which frequently occured in their previous practices. The process of designing and system and integrating computers into Bethlehem's business practices was accomplished over a period of five years.
During this time, Lattanze also called on other businesses within the community as requested by the sales force. It was during these business calls that he became aware that all business were essentially trying to do the same thing, but a forum for discussion did not exist. It appeared that each business was trying to reinvent the wheel and was not willing to discuss its efforts with other peers.
In 1984, Lattanze considered early retirement from IBM and began pursuing a career in education with a local university. He felt that he could establish a forum where members of the I.T. business community could gather and exchange problems, ideas, and other subjects of interest that would be of benefit to all who participated.
In mid-1985, Lattanze became progressively ill and was diagnosed with cancer in January 1986. He passed away in November 1986.
During his battle with illness, his family contacted Loyola University to explore the possibility of the school carrying on his dream for the business community. With monetary contributions from his family and others, the David D. Lattanze Center was launched in 1987 at Loyola University and its efforts continue today.