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Anaren Inc. honors co-founders Carl Gerst Jr. and Hugh Hair through gift to Syracuse University’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science
Anaren Inc. honors co-founders Carl Gerst Jr. and Hugh Hair through gift to Syracuse University’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer ScienceOctober 07, 2004Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
Endowed fund will strengthen collaboration between company and the college
The Syracuse University connections run deep and strong at Anaren Inc. and begin with the company’s co-founders, Carl Gerst Jr. G’87 and the late Hugh Hair. The two engineers forged a lifelong friendship in the early 1960s while working at General Electric in Electronics Park in Salina. They each worked at the Syracuse Research Corp., located on the SU campus, in the mid-1960s and took graduate courses in SU’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS).
Gerst and Hair founded Anaren in 1967, developing sensory equipment for the U.S. Navy. Today, the East Syracuse-based company is an international manufacturer of complex signal distribution networks and components for the wireless communications, satellite communications and defense electronics markets. The company employs 350 locally, and Gerst and Hair’s mentorship has impacted countless young engineers across the globe, including students at SU.
To honor Gerst and Hair’s visionary leadership through the years, Anaren has made a financial commitment of $500,000 to establish the Gerst-Hair Endowed Fund in Microwave Engineering at Syracuse University. The fund, which will be announced during an Oct. 5 ceremony in SU’s Link Hall, will provide both the University and Anaren with increased capacity to recruit, retain and employ outstanding undergraduate and graduate students interested in the field of microwave engineering.
The Gerst-Hair fund will provide a named graduate fellowship to highly qualified students each year. In addition, Anaren will provide an internship opportunity to one or more students between junior and senior year, and the potential for permanent placement with the company after completion of the graduate degree. A senior-year research experience within the College will also be part of the program.
Eric F. Spina, the Douglas D. Danforth Dean of ECS, says the fund builds upon Anaren’s existing strong commitment to ECS and its students, and is in line with recommendations from the Essential New York Initiative, a plan to transform the Central Upstate New York region into a knowledge-based economy.
“The initiative calls for creating, retaining and attracting talent in Central Upstate New York, and says that university-industry cooperation is mutually beneficial,” Spina says. “The collaboration between ECS and Anaren exemplifies that, and is vital in the college’s goal to be nationally recognized and regionally relevant.
“This gift is the launching point for us to build a more meaningful and successful microwave engineering program, and we are very grateful,” Spina says.
Collaboration between Anaren and SU has existed for many years and was nurtured by Gerst, Hair and ECS Dean Emeritus Bradley Strait. Lawrence Sala, a student of Strait’s who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SU in 1984 and 1986, respectively, as well as an M.B.A. in 1993, was hired through the ECS-Anaren collaboration and is now the company’s chief executive officer.
Gerst and Hair began inviting ECS students to intern with Anaren and hosting an ECS faculty member during the summer to work on projects and share their knowledge. In turn, the faculty member would bring back real-world projects and problems for use in the classroom and in developing courses.
Ercument Arvas, a professor of electrical engineering and a leader in SU’s microwave program, was the first faculty member to work at Anaren, in 1997.
“Dr. Arvas has dedicated tremendous time to our collaboration and has engaged our engineers, getting them involved as mentors,” Sala says. “We want to generate more interest in this field of study and get students excited and interested in pursuing their studies on the graduate level.”
Since 1997, more than a dozen students have interned at Anaren, and four students are currently working there full time while simultaneously completing their graduate work. Arvas came back from his summer experience and developed courses that bolstered SU’s microwave program and made it nationally recognized. That is quite an honor, he says, when you consider that radio frequency (RF) and microwave engineering is the most complex and complicated subdivision of electrical engineering. Arvas’ courses have become very popular and are heavily subscribed, as students from the program enter the workforce with a competitive edge. “Our program emulates industry, so by the time they graduate, our students are well experienced and ready to go,” Arvas says.
Both Arvas and Spina say that the Anaren commitment is paramount to their challenge to recruit and retain more students in the RF/Microwave Engineering Program, particularly more students from the United States (only U.S. citizens can be certified to work on defense contracts). Beyond the financial support of students, Anaren provides critical support in terms of engineers to supervise projects and teach, and through the use of equipment and facilities. This semester, Gerst and Anaren engineers Thomas Lingel and Samir Tozin (who interned at Anaren) are co-teaching a graduate class in microwave measurements.
While ECS and the students are the obvious benefactors of Anaren’s generosity, Sala says the Gerst-Hair Fund offers the company some very significant benefits as well. It allows the company to attract high-caliber talent and work with graduate students who offer a fresh perspective. Equally important, it underscores Anaren’s commitment to Central New York and serves as a meaningful way to honor the company’s co-founders.
“We are all here because of Carl and Hugh’s leadership,” Sala says. “Hopefully, this will create many more opportunities for people in this community.”