Honoring Rainer John Westphal: Drexel alumnus and entrepreneur | The Triangle

Honoring Rainer John Westphal: Drexel alumnus and entrepreneur

Photo by Samuel Gregg | The Triangle

On Aug. 7, 2023, Drexel University alumni and trustee Rainer John “Ray” Westphal passed away at the age of 88 (July 7, 1935 – Aug. 7, 2023). He received his bachelor’s degree in business in 1959 and since then has had an incredible impact on the Drexel community. He supported many projects and initiatives at Drexel, including naming the College of Media Arts & Design in honor of his late wife, Antoinette Westphal. He met Antoinette in the late 1950s when they were both enrolled as students at Drexel. For his contributions to the University, Ray was awarded an honorary Drexel degree in 2002 and a Golden Dragon award in 2009. 

Ray was born in New York in 1935, the child of German immigrants. After high school, Ray was searching for opportunities, full of ambition but without much money. He found a work-study program that could help him to afford a college education. He applied, and he was accepted as an undergraduate at Drexel University. Ray thrived at Drexel. He was a passionate learner and excelled in his studies, particularly in the nascent field of Computer Science. He was a member of the fraternity TKE, was an athlete and served in the United States National Guard. He met his wife Antoinette as an undergraduate, and they married in May 1960.

After graduation, Ray and Antoinette had three children: Jeff, Stefanie and Amanda. They moved to Princeton, New Jersey, where his computer science skills earned him a job at Educational Testing Services. He was part of a team that designed the scoring system for the SAT (in the words of Ray’s obituary: “Don’t blame him!”). Afterward, the family moved to Strafford, Pennsylvania, where Ray worked as a consultant. 

In 1969, Ray was unexpectedly laid off. He found another job at Sorbus Corporation developing an accounting system, but the business was struggling, and he expected to be laid off again. In 1978, Ray and Antoinette took a massive risk by taking a second mortgage to start Vertex, Inc. with just one employee. Ray set out to leverage his computer science skills and accounting knowledge to create valuable corporate software.

Vertex is still operational 45 years later. It employs thousands and has served countless people as the world’s leading public corporate tax compliance technology company. According to the company’s 2022 annual report, it had revenues of approximately $500,000,000 last year. In the words of Ray’s obituary, “His values of very hard work, coupled with a whole lot of fun, are bedrock corporate values to this day, and tales of his genius, guile, and extreme generosity were legend.”

In 2004, Antoinette tragically passed away from breast cancer. Wanting to honor her name, Ray led the initiative to name Drexel’s College of Media Arts & Design in her honor, which was finalized in 2006.

Ray met the second love of his life, Cindy Craft, in 2005. They married in 2008. Ray enjoyed his retirement with Cindy, in which he enjoyed simple pleasures, such as ice cream, cigars and basking in the sun.

According to his obituary, “Ray is survived by his wife Cindy, his son Jeff, and wife Jenifer Westphal, daughter Stefanie (Westphal) and husband, Christopher Thompson, daughter Amanda (Westphal), and husband Conrad Radcliffe, as well as 11 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.”

In response to a request for comment from the Triangle, the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design provided the following message:

“It is with heavy hearts that we come together to remember and celebrate the life of a remarkable individual, Ray Westphal. As a proud member of the Drexel community, Ray’s (many) contributions were ones of inspiration, creativity, dedication, and service. We are proud to honor his legacy, and that of his late wife, as the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. Our condolences are with his wife Cindy, his children Jeff, Stefanie (Stevie), Amanda, grandchildren, and all who knew and loved him.” 

For further reading, please see this tribute to Ray Westphal’s incredible life.