Donald Welch

President and CEO of Merit Network, Inc. in Ann Arbor. Merit is a nonprofit, member-owned organization formed in 1966 that provides high-performance networking and services to the research and education communities in Michigan and beyond. Since joining Merit in 2006, Welch has helped Merit grow significantly, providing more members with more services. Merit recently was awarded a $33.3 million federal grant to build network infrastructure in Michigan’s rural areas. Welch previously was director of enterprise technology and merchandising applications for H-E-B, a $12 billion retailer in Texas and Mexico. He was responsible for enterprise architecture, integration, infrastructure, and security as well as delivering and supporting merchandising applications. Before joining H-E-B, he served 25 years in the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of colonel and earning the Legion of Merit. His last assignment was as associate dean for information technology and professor of computer science at West Point, where he received the Apgar award for innovation in teaching. He was responsible for the computer operations and infrastructure used to educate future officers, and built West Point’s wireless network, one of the first large secure networks, which received a Computerworld “best practices in mobile and wireless” award for security. Among other military assignments, Welch was the chief of software engineering for the Army’s counterterrorist unit, Delta Force, and led the integration of numerous applications into an enterprise database as well as pioneering technologies such as global positioning systems and digital maps. He was also the senior human resources manager for the Army’s professional information technology workforce, which he helped reshape to meet changed approaches to information technology. He managed information technology support for the department of computer science at West Point and a branch of the Army Human Resources Command. At the start of his Army career he commanded two light infantry companies and three infantry platoons. Welch received his bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, an MS in computer science from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and a PhD in computer science from the University of Maryland, College Park. His research in information assurance and software engineering has appeared in over 25 publications.

WHERE BORN: “Buffalo, N.Y.”

MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSONS: “Dan Kaufman, who is now president of a state college in Georgia. He was the provost when I was at West Point. As my boss, he influenced me with a combination of mentoring, coaching, and just watching and trying to emulate him.”

LAST BOOK READ: "“Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.”

WORDS THAT DESCRIBE ME: “Risk-taker, self-effacing in my humor, somewhat iconoclastic in that I don’t take very much seriously. I think there’s humor in everything.”

WHERE MY FIELD/INDUSTRY IS HEADED: “The idea of networks is changing drastically, and technology is going in directions that many don’t understand. It’s thought of as a commodity by many people but it isn’t. It will drive us to innovate in very different ways. The business models are all changing, and there’s no consensus on changes in technology and changes in perception.”


FAVORITE PLACE: “Home with my family.”

FAVORITE HOBBIES: “Playing guitar. I’m not good at it but I like playing the blues.”


MY HIDDEN TALENT:“I like to build things – it doesn’t matter what it is. I don’t get a lot of chances to do it anymore.”

HOW I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED: “That I made people’s lives a little more pleasant.”