Sandy Lerner

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Sandy Lerner
Alma mater California State University, Chico
Claremont Graduate School
Stanford University
Known for Co-Founder of Cisco Systems
Co-Founder of Urban Decay
Spouse(s) Leonard Bosack (divorced)

Sandy Lerner (born 1955) is an American businesswoman and philanthropist. She co-founded Cisco Systems, and used the money from its sale to pursue interests in animal welfare and women's writing. One of her main projects, Chawton House, is in England, but most of her work remains in the United States.

Early life and education[edit]

She grew up on a farm in northern California.[1] She received her bachelor's degree in 1975 in political science from California State University, Chico, a master's degree in econometrics in 1977 from the Claremont Graduate School, and a master's degree in statistics and computer science in 1981 from Stanford University.


In 1984, while working as Director of Computer Facilities for the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, Lerner co-founded Cisco Systems with her then partner (and now ex-husband) Len Bosack. It is widely reported that Lerner and Bosack designed the first router so that they could connect the incompatible computer systems of the Stanford offices they were working in so that they could send romantic love letters to each other. However, this was a manufactured corporate legend.[2][3] In fact, both systems (SU-SCORE and SU-GSB) were TOPS-20 systems. The systems were the same and therefore obviously not incompatible, but the SU-GSB system was not on any network. It has also been noted that the original router was designed and created by a group of people at Stanford, both students and faculty, rather than Lerner and Bosack alone.[3]

Lerner and Bosack brought in John Morgridge to be the third CEO of Cisco in 1988. On August 28, 1990, Lerner was fired; upon hearing the news, Bosack resigned to show his support for her. The two sold all of their stock for $170 million[1] and retired from Cisco. Lerner and Bosask divorced in the early 1990s.

Other business projects[edit]

Lerner placed a portion of her stock earnings into a start-up venture capital limited partnership called "& Capital Partners." One of the companies it funded was Urban Decay Cosmetics, with the tag line "does pink make you puke?"[4] [5] In February 2000, Moet-Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), the French luxury goods conglomerate, acquired the firm. It was spun off from LVMH in December 2002.

She started moving to Virginia in 1995. She primarily resides at her 800-acre (3.2 km2) estate, Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, that she acquired in 1996. The circa-1912, 42-room Edwardian mansion of native fieldstone has since been restored and is used for a variety of social functions under Lerner's direction.[6] Ayrshire Farm's mission is to farm sustainably and profitably, promoting the benefits of locally produced, humanely-raised meats and organic produce to the consumer, the community, and children through education, outreach and example. The farm sells its products online[7] and locally from Gentle Harvest in Marshall, VA.

Lerner also owns the Hunter's Head Tavern[8] in Upperville, Virginia.

Artistic projects and philanthropy[edit]

Lerner early showed her predilection for English architecture by building a home in Los Altos, California for which she imported a 2 1/2 story glass garden tower and created an English rose garden. The house still stands.

For many years Lerner directed her philanthropy towards Chawton House and its specialist library and study centre. In 1992, through the foundation she shares with Leonard Bosack, she invested money into the restoration of this Hampshire manor house once owned by Jane Austen's brother, Edward Austen Knight. In 2003 it opened as the Centre for the Study of Early Women's Writing, 1600-1830. The Chawton House Library has a collection of over 9,000 books, mainly related to the literary genre of women's writing, and original manuscripts. The Library works in partnership with the University of Southampton, and provides an important resource for the university's MA in 18th Century Study.[9] In 2016 Lerner resigned from the board of trustees and withdrew the financial support of her foundation.[10]

In November 2011, Lerner published a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice titled Second Impressions using the pen name of Ava Farmer (for "a Virginia farmer"); she plans to make it into a movie.[11] In August 2017, Lerner released Caticons [12], a book of art imitating cats.

Awards and recognition[edit]

Lerner was awarded an honorary degree in 2005 from Southampton University[13] and a Doctor of Sciences in 2012 from California State University, Chico[14].

In 2009, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society honored Sandra Lerner and Leonard Bosack with its Computer Entrepreneur Award "for founding Cisco Systems and pioneering and advancing the commercialization of routing technology and the profound changes this technology enabled in the computer industry."[15] In 2014 Lerner was presented with the Technology Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Pioneer award at the United Nations.[16]

Lerner was featured in the documentary film Something Ventured (2011). She was also featured in part 2 of the PBS documentary Nerds 2.0.1.

In November 2014, Lerner was presented with the distinguished Pioneer Award for her work in the Technology field by Women's Entrepreneurship Day and the United Nations. [17]

In 2015, Lerner was presented with an honorary OBE by the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire, Nigel Atkinson, for her contributions to UK culture. She received special permission to hold the ceremony at Chawton House.[18]


  1. ^ a b Nicholls, Walter (22 June 2005). "Two Starts and a Stir". Washington Post. Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  2. ^ "Router man". Retrieved 2012-11-02. 
  3. ^ a b Pete Carey (2001-01-12). "A start-up's true tale". Mercury News. 
  4. ^ "Does pink make you puke?". Forbes. August 25, 1997. 
  5. ^ "Urban Decay history"
  6. ^ Bellafante, G. (June 23, 2005). "All That Glitters Is Not Silicon". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ "Ayrshire Farm". Archived from the original on November 10, 2012. Retrieved November 2, 2012. 
  8. ^ "HHHome". Retrieved 2012-11-02. 
  9. ^ Chawton House Website Southampton Section
  10. ^ Flood, Alison (20 July 2017). "Jane Austen's Great House launches urgent appeal to stay open". the Guardian. Retrieved 22 March 2018. 
  11. ^ Julian Guthrie, "Cisco founder pens sequel to 'Pride and Prejudice'", San Francisco Chronicle, May 30, 2012 . Retrieved January 26, 2013.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Graduation 2005 - the biggest ever | University of Southampton". Retrieved 22 March 2018. 
  14. ^ "Honorary Doctorates To Be Awarded to Cisco Systems Co-founder Sandy Lerner and Political Analyst and Campaign Manager Ed Rollins - CSU, Chico News - CSU, Chico". Retrieved 22 March 2018. 
  15. ^ "Computer Society Connection". Computer Society Digital Library. 43 (03): 77-80. March 2010. Retrieved 22 March 2018. 
  16. ^ "2014 Pioneer Awards". Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  17. ^ Wendy Diamond. "Women's Entrepreneurship Day Organization Pioneer Awards 2014 Winners". WED. Retrieved July 5, 2018. 
  18. ^ "Dr Sandy Lerner's OBE: A Special Day in Pictures ~ Chawton House". Chawton House. 22 May 2015. Retrieved 22 March 2018.