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John and Patricia Breyer’s longtime passion for Syracuse University inspires million-dollar faculty endowment gift
John and Patricia Breyer’s longtime passion for Syracuse University inspires million-dollar faculty endowment giftJune 05, 2009Tricia Hopkinsthopkins@syr.edu
Syracuse University is never far from the minds of Alpharetta, Ga., residents John and Patricia Breyer. They hold dear the years they lived in Syracuse, when John worked for General Electric at Electronics Park in Liverpool, and the connections they made to SU, both through John’s work and as parents of an SU student.
Most recently, their passion for SU is evidenced by a $1.1 million gift to SU’s L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science (LCS) to establish the John E. and Patricia A. Breyer Endowed Professorship in Electrical Engineering. The gift will allow the college, and specifically the electrical engineering program, to add a new position designed to attract a world-class faculty member. The endowment will help to support the faculty member’s teaching, research and other activities.
“John and Pat have been passionate about the LCS College of Engineering and Computer Science for many years,” says Laura J. Steinberg, dean of LCS. “This generous gift will help the college support an extraordinary professor of electrical engineering-one who will engage in outstanding research and work collaboratively with faculty, students and industry in areas such as networked systems, electromagnetics and signal processing.”
“We’ve worked hard and have been very fortunate. We felt that we wanted to support excellence in education and that this gift was the best way,” says John Breyer, a member of SU’s Board of Trustees. “Education is so important to our country and to society as a whole.”
Although the Breyers did not graduate from SU themselves-both are natives of the Midwest and graduates of universities there-they have enjoyed a strong relationship with SU for more than 40 years.
The couple moved to the Syracuse area when John’s career with GE brought them to Central New York. He worked for GE at Electronics Park from 1965-80 and from 1985-89 in a variety of technical and managerial roles. During that time, John oversaw many collaborations between his employees and faculty and students in LCS. Several of his employees were adjuncts in the college, and John appointed a member of his human resources department to initiate a program to help support minority students (a precursor to the PRIDE program in the college today). John also spent time as an SU student, taking graduate courses in the college.
During the mid-1980s, the Breyers also forged a new bond with the University-as parents of an SU student. Their daughter, Deborah Knoblock, received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from SU’s School of Education in 1988 and 1990, respectively. Their youngest daughter, Tamara Ellis, is an alumna of Georgetown University. “That has always made for some interesting conversations,” John says. He and Pat are also devoted grandparents of three granddaughters.
After returning to the Syracuse area in 1985, John served as GE’s general manager of Surface Ship Anti-Submarine Warfare programs and general manager of its Undersea Systems Department. He left GE in 1989 after a distinguished career of nearly 30 years to join Scientific-Atlanta in Georgia as senior vice president and president of the company’s instrumentation business. Since 1997, John has been president, CEO and chairman of the board of managers of Microwave Instrumentation Technologies, LLC, a leading global supplier of microwave instrumentation products, systems and technologies for antenna, component, radome and radar cross section measurement instruments.
Despite the distance between Syracuse and Georgia, John has continued to remain actively involved in the life of SU and LCS. He has served on the LCS Dean’s Council since 1994 and the LCS Leadership Council since 2000. He has been a member of the University’s Board of Trustees since 2001.
“John and Pat are truly part of the LCS and SU family, and we are deeply indebted to them for their friendship and support of all kinds, which has included sage counsel, meaningful donations and important professional connections for students and faculty,” says SU Vice Chancellor and Provost Eric F. Spina, who worked closely with the Breyers when he was dean of LCS. “As a trustee and an advisor to several LCS deans, John has been critical in the repositioning of LCS within the University and in helping to make the case that engineering is important both to society and SU.”
As part of The Campaign for Syracuse University, the $1.1 million endowment gift will be bolstered through Faculty Today, a new gift challenge program created to encourage donors to endow faculty chairs and professorships. Designed to accelerate the University’s ability to recruit and retain world-class faculty, Faculty Today will supplement the earnings from the endowed professorship in electrical engineering for five years. Additionally, LCS will provide an equivalent contribution multiplying the buying power of the gift and enabling the college to soon hire and retain an outstanding faculty member. The program was developed by the SU Board of Trustees, which allocated $30 million from the University’s endowment in support of the new initiative.
Steinberg says the college will launch a search for the John E. and Patricia A. Breyer Professor in fall 2009, a process in which the Breyers will be involved. “I envision this new faculty member to be someone who has a passion for engineering and sees its value, and who can wholly educate our students to become successful engineers and members of society,” John says.
With a goal of $1 billion, The Campaign for Syracuse University is the most ambitious fundraising effort in SU’s history. By supporting faculty excellence, student access, interdisciplinary programs, capital projects and other institutional priorities, the campaign is continuing to drive Scholarship in Action/i>, the University’s vision to provide students, faculty and communities with the insights needed to incite positive and lasting change in the world.
More information is available online at http://campaign.syr.edu.