The Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame Association
Eugene Czerwinski Inducted 1992 - Class of 1947
It all began in the early 1940s when Gene, dissatisfied with the poor fidelity of the best victrolas (remember those?), began experimenting with and then manufacturing improved microphones, amplifiers, and speaker systems.
At WHS, Gene was originally set to graduate with the Class of 1945. During the middle of his senior year, he was drafted into the U.S. Navy.
Gene, however, was not a stellar student. He recalled receiving all F's on one report card- - -including one in shop and electronics! When Gene questioned his instructor, A.R. Bitter, he told him Gene deserved an A, but gave him an F to make the card symmetrical! As Gene explained, "Bitter gave me a kick in the pants!"
After the war, Gene returned to Woodward and graduated with the Class of 1947. Just in spite of
the government, he said, he used his G.I. benefits and attended the University of Toledo and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.
After completing his Master's in physics at the University of Michigan and designing its television audio system, he packed up, and moved to California. "My wife, Lois, and I took our books, our educations, and our station wagon."
In Los Angeles, he devoted himself to aerospace electroacoustics by day, but by night he pursued his audio research. In 1954, he founded Vega Associates, the precursor of Cerwin-Vega, and gradually withdrew from the demands of aerospace as his new venture blossomed.
Vega began to grow rapidly with the introduction of a large, high efficiency 4-way speaker system. Eventually a full line of speakers was introduced and, in 1957, Vega introduced the first solid state hi-fi amplifier.
When dynamic popular music enjoyed a renaissance in the mid 1960s, Vega quickly became a principal supplier of loudspeakers and system designs to the major musical instrument amplifier manufacturers. By the early 1970s, 80% of the good electrified base performed in concert or studio was emanating from Cerwin-Vega loudspeakers. In fact, in 1972, Cerwin-Vega sound filled the 100,000 seat Los Angeles Coliseum during the Watts Summer Music Festival. Just to drop a few names, Cerwin-Vega equipment was also used by all the big names in rock and roll including The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, and Chicago.
This Woodward graduate was also instrumental in developing a dramatic innovation in motion picture sound. In 1974, the movie "Earthquake" used "Sensurround" to recreate a real earthquake vibration. Before "Sensurround," Gene said, "Theaters used about the same technology as car radios!" This innovation won an Academy Award for special technical achievement.
In the hi-fi arena, the company successfully developed the world's most popular 12" three-way shelf speaker, which was quickly recognized as the best value for home audio enthusiasts.
For more than thirty years, Cerwin-Vega has been patenting many innovations and with Gene at the helm, the company continues to move forward with exciting new projects. Today, Cerwin-Vega enjoys world-wide distribution operating out of three plants in Canada, Denmark, as well as California. Gene said he couldn't have done this without Lois.
Not only does Gene identify himself with his business, but also through his philanthropic involvement with The MAMA (Musical Archives, Musical Archives) Foundation. Gene founded this non-profit organization in loving memory of his wife, Lois, a Waite graduate and educator who helped found Cerwin-Vega and raise their three children, Connie, Stephen, and Darius.
The purpose of the Foundation gives jazz musicians a chance to record without commercial pressure. Gene knows that a labor of love cannot succeed with one eye on the checkbook and another on the clock. If an artist needs to experiment to find the right sound or feel for a song in the recording or mixing process, MAMA gives him or her the freedom to do so without time constraints. "They're all under-recorded and under-appreciated artists," Gene said.
The CDs produced by MAMA are made available at no cost to all public and private schools, museums, and archives. Currently, MAMA is involved in a project which recorded a four-day, Fiftieth Anniversary tribute to jazz great, Stan Kenton. It was the first digital recording of Kenton's orchestra and featured 90% of the Kenton's alumni band members. Gene said, "Kenton’s music got me started in the sound business."
Gene's work with MAMA ensures the preservation and sharing of fine jazz music while his innovations with Cerwin-Vega keep making leaps and bounds in the electronics industry.