St. Jude Founder Manny Villafana Honored In Hometown
One of the biggest names in Minnesota’s medical device industry is being honored by his hometown for his life work.
Manny Villafana, perhaps best known as the founder of St. Jude Medical, is being inducted in the Bronx Hall of Fame during a weeklong celebration of the New York City borough. He was born there in 1940 as the son of Puerto Rican immigrants.
The award goes to “individuals whose success serves as both as example of extraordinary achievement in their field and a point of Bronx pride,” Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. wrote in a letter Villafana.
Villafana’s resume is long. Initially hired at New York-based Picker International, followed by a stint at Medtronic, he then set out on his own and became something of a serial entrepreneur.
In 1971, he launched Cardiac Pacemakers Inc. where he introduced the long-long lithium iodine pacemaker. CPI was eventually acquired by Eli Lilly & Company and later spun off as Guidant (now owned by Boston Scientific). He founded St. Jude Medical in 1976, creating a mechanical heart valve still used in the industry. Other companies he founded include ATS Medical (acquired by Medtronic in 2010) and the now-defunct Kips Bay Medical—named after the boys club he spent time in as a child.
Villafana’s name will be emblazoned on a street sign on the Grand Concourse Historic District. Former inductees include Neil deGrasse Tyson, Colin Powell, Regis Philbin and Rita Moreno.
Others inducted into the Bronx Hall of Fame this year are hip-hop DJ Funkmaster Flex, Latin pop star Prince Royce and Selena Leyva, known for her role as Gloria on the Netflix show Orange Is The New Black.