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Lehigh University receives $10 million gift to reward innovation

Daniel E. Smith Jr. '71

A gift of $10 million will establish the Smith Funds for Research and Innovation in Science and Engineering at Lehigh University. Daniel E. Smith, Jr. ’71, president and CEO of Sycamore Networks, Inc., and chairman of Lehigh University’s Board of Trustees, and his wife, Elizabeth Riley, have established the endowment that will expand Lehigh’s research capabilities and position the university to compete on a new level.

The philosophy behind the Smith gift is to reward innovative thinking and create incentives for collaboration. In addition to supporting students and post-doctoral researchers, these funds will be catalytic investments that will power a university-wide initiative for new research.

These funds are centered on the university’s goals to expand Lehigh’s intellectual footprint by supporting cross-disciplinary research. The gift will provide ignition funds to support novel, early-stage research that would require further development before competing for external funding.

“The Smith Family gift will have a transforming impact on Lehigh, fueling innovation and fostering a culture of intellectual entrepreneurship across campus,” says Lehigh President Alice Gast. “These funds will allow us to translate great ideas into robust and sustainable research, significantly enhance our research productivity, and secure Lehigh’s place among premier residential research universities.”

In addition to rewarding faculty who lead team efforts and multi-investigator research programs, the gift will help attract students and researchers in a highly competitive environment. This gift follows a history of generous support to Lehigh University provided by Smith and his family. In 2002, the Daniel E. ’39 and Patricia M. Smith Endowed Chair of the Center for Optical Technologies at Lehigh was established in honor of Smith’s parents. This gift made possible the construction of the Smith Family Laboratory for Optical Technologies, a three-story addition to Lehigh’s Sinclair Laboratory that houses an optoelectronics cleanroom and epitaxial growth facility.

This latest $10 million gift from Smith will advance Lehigh’s research enterprise in fundamental ways, which include stimulating and sustaining increased research activity, and positioning faculty within and beyond the Center for Optical Technologies as international leaders in their respective fields.

The gift will provide for needs focused on human and intellectual resources, such as graduate student and postdoctoral fellowships and funds to support research staff. Incentive funds for faculty researchers working collaboratively across disciplines will have an even greater impact through a matching grant that supplements new competitive externally awarded funds.

“The incentive fund component will have a tremendous impact for faculty researchers making the large investments in time and energy needed to develop new initiatives and forging exciting new multidisciplinary collaborations,” says Bruce Koel, interim vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies. “These endeavors enable faculty teams to tackle the most challenging problems and provide great opportunities for our students to pursue cutting-edge research.”

Smith has been an enthusiastic supporter of athletic projects, including the renovation of Lehigh’s historic Grace Hall and the final stage construction of the Ulrich Sports Complex for lacrosse, soccer, and field hockey. In 2007, he and his wife, Elizabeth Riley, endowed the Smith Family Men's Lacrosse Coach position.

An industrial engineering graduate of Lehigh, Smith co-founded optical networking pioneer Sycamore Networks (NASDAQ:SCMR) in 1998 with Gururaj Deshpande. The company develops and markets a broad range of optical networking products that enable network service providers to transform the capacity created by their fiber optic networks into bandwidth for the delivery of high-speed data services.

Prior to founding Sycamore, Smith co-founded and led Cascade Communications, another pioneering data communications company, which is now part of Alcatel-Lucent Technologies.

A native of Nyack, N.Y., Smith graduated from Lehigh in 1971 with a B.S. in industrial engineering, and continued his studies at Harvard University, where he earned an M.B.A. in finance and general management in 1976. He served as an officer in the United States Navy from 1971-73.

Elizabeth Riley graduated from Barnard College and earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. She was president and co-founder of Mazza and Riley, Inc., an international executive search firm, and currently teaches entrepreneurship at Babson College.

Story by Janet Norwood

Posted on Thursday, May 06, 2010

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