July 09, 2012
By: James M. Odato
Source: Times Union
ALBANY — Those who look for clues as to why Alain Kaloyeros kept pushing
his dream of a world-class nanotechnology college could look at the
scars on his wrists.
The 56-year-old says his brushes with death in war-torn Lebanon shaped
his life, bringing into focus the limited time one has to make his mark
in the world.
Those desperate days helped form the personality of the charismatic
physics professor who has mastered the art of dealing with politicians
and corporate executives. Many people with whom he's worked say he is an
extraordinary salesman, including those who consider him a master
manipulator. Some like him. Some fear him. Most respect him. Few know
"Experiences like this make you appreciate life," Kaloyeros said about
his youth in the Middle East. "Makes you outgoing, wanting to achieve
things in life — aggressive, for want of a better word."
The fast-growing College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, now in
yet another construction phase on the northwestern edge of the
University at Albany campus, is considered the nation's premier research
facility for nanotechnology, and Kaloyeros has built a power base
unmatched in the SUNY system. With titles of senior vice president and
chief executive officer of the sprawling complex, he is busy charting
the course for greater expansion.
UAlbany President George Philip said Kaloyeros has moved the nanocollege
into an economic development project with branches in Canandaigua,
Utica and Halfmoon. At UAlbany alone, Kaloyeros manages $14 billion in
clean rooms, test labs and research classrooms put together with public
and private funding. In
numerous interviews with people who know Kaloyeros, he is described as a
man who has successfully navigated through politics, bureaucracy and
changing administrations with warmth, charm and a seductive vision that
mixes images of job creation and dominance in microelectronics. He won
funding for something few could have imagined for UAlbany, an upstate
SUNY school better known for affordable tuition than for cutting-edge
When Kaloyeros arrived at UAlbany in 1988, he began
asserting himself in ways that have prompted comparisons to historic
figures. "His vision rivals Robert Moses," said Ron Rock, a former top
deputy with the state Division of Budget who sometimes sparred with
Kaloyeros over funding.
The nanocenter, Kaloyeros' dream, is
about to expand to 1.3 billion square feet of state-of-the-art R&D
space where scientists are trying to improve the computer chips used in
many applications. The college is filled with students, faculty and
scientists from dozens of high-tech ventures lured there by Kaloyeros'
entrepreneurial spirit. A total of 2,600 people work at the complex, all
but 700 from private companies.
Usually dressed in jeans and
three-button, long-sleeve T-shirts, Kaloyeros reigns over the vast
network of glass and bright metal — sometimes with an iron fist. Often
spotted dashing to a nearby Starbucks or sushi restaurants in his
Ferrari sports car, he is the highest-paid state employee, receiving
$1.3 million last year: $801,000 in state pay and $507,413 from the
Research Foundation of the State University of New York, which also
employs his wife as a $110,800-per-year grant administrator. The
foundation pays him for three months beyond the academic year, from
grants he brings in, and for his role as vice president and special
adviser on economic innovation. Foundation spokesman Peter Taubkin said
Kaloyeros generated more than $200 million in research grants last year,
among the most of any university faculty member nationwide.
drive may come from his experiences in Lebanon, friends say,
particularly a 1975 attack by those he calls "terrorists" that nearly
Kaloyeros said he assumes the attackers were members
of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. They were armed with AK-47s,
wore Arab scarves and covered their faces. The assault happened at the
beginning of the long Lebanese civil war, when a 19-year-old Kaloyeros
and four fellow students from American University were stopped in a car
as they fled from their campus in West Beirut after warnings of unrest
in the city.
He said his assailants sliced him and left him
bleeding. When he awoke a few days later in a hospital, he was told one
of his friends did not survive.
"He was left for dead," says a
former research colleague, Barry Arkles, a materials scientist near
Philadelphia who has known Kaloyeros since the early 1990s. The two have
shared patents, and he is among a handful of people Kaloyeros has told
about what happened in the Lebanon attack.
"Politics can impact
you personally and can be life-threatening, and I think that accounts
for the part of him that goes for the objective and doesn't pull back,"
Another person who knows about the scars from
Lebanon is state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. "It shapes his
personality," said Silver. Kaloyeros won him over some 18 years ago,
when the legislative leader was convinced to send $5 million in Assembly
discretionary funds to the UAlbany project — even though the Manhattan
Democrat wasn't sure what a clean room was.
The two have bonded.
"We've had many discussions about Middle Eastern politics," Silver said.
"He's a reflection of, obviously, his past and his history, but the
manner in which he does things is modern-day, businesslike. What makes
him unique is he has the ability to sell; he has the ability to make you
want to invest in his vision."
His college years in Beirut
account for "65 percent to 75 percent" of what drives him now, Kaloyeros
said. After he recovered from his wounds, Kaloyeros dropped out of
college and joined the Christian militia to fight the PLO. (Kaloyeros'
family was Greek Orthodox.) He trained in heavy artillery and in tanks
with the Israeli army, and became a leader of a group of about two dozen
Kaloyeros said he saw friends and colleagues die and was himself twice wounded by shrapnel.
1977, he decided his luck was running out. "I had a facing-death
experience with a Syrian tank staring at us ready to blow us up,"
He quit the militia and resumed his studies at
the newly formed Lebanese University in Beirut. Richard Rizk, a physics
dean who mentored Kaloyeros for three years, recalled the young man as
an outstanding student able to focus despite the violence.
met Kaloyeros' parents, Elie and Nadia Kaloyeros, who are now deceased.
Kaloyeros said his father was a banking and entertainment industry
executive; his mother was a manager for several companies, including
electronics giant Sanyo Corp.
"She was a helluva manager; she was my role model," he said. His two younger sisters live abroad.
left Lebanon in 1980 for graduate school and in 1988 he received his
doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
husband was very open about the fact that Alain was the best and the
brightest of all his students," said Dorothy Williams, the widow of
Wendell Williams, Kaloyeros' doctoral thesis adviser.
and his wife, Paula — whom he met when she worked in the physics
department at the U of I — moved to Albany after his doctorate was
complete. They are raising two boys in Slingerlands.
was recruited under an initiative of Gov. Mario Cuomo to encourage
graduate research at UAlbany, an investment that grew into the Center
for Environmental Sciences and Technology Management.
that the site had potential to host innovative research, Kaloyeros found
a partner in IBM to persuade private-sector technology companies to
move in and spend hundreds of millions of dollars to outfit new quarters
at the site with matching state funds. He became adept at navigating
Albany politics, befriending aides to leaders and the leaders
themselves, and touting how his project would be good for business, the
economy, for New York. He won over veteran lawmakers, like Senate
Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer.
The sums he sought grew from seven digits to nine, blowing out previous state economic development models.
were nervous," said Rock, the budget official who dealt with Kaloyeros'
project demands early on and questioned their viability. "He proved me
An adept poker player, Kaloyeros continues to hold a
strong hand. Last fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's first big job creation
announcement involved another state commitment of $400 million to the
nano college so a group of high-tech companies could expand research
activities in New York, spending a total of $4.4 billion.
said his passion is for creating something that will outlast his
generation. "It's not about power, it's about achievement," he said.
"Achievement is about building a facility that is going to serve the
state for the next 50-60 years."
firstname.lastname@example.org • 518-454-5083 • @JamesMOdato
Through the years
Here are the major developments in the history of the UAlbany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering:
• 1988: Gov. Mario Cuomo recruits Alain Kaloyeros under the SUNY Graduate Research Initiative.
• 1993: Cuomo designates the Materials Physics Program as a Center for Advanced Technology.
2001: School of Nanosciences and Nanoengineering at UAlbany is
established; the $150 million Center of Excellence in Nanoelectronics
and Nanotechnology is begun.
• 2002: The $405 million
International SEMATECH North center is founded; the $300 million Tokyo
Electron Ltd. Technology Center, America, is also formed. Ground is
broken for the $50 million NanoFab South Building.
• 2003: Groundbreaking for $175 million NanoFab North Building.
• 2004: College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering of the University at Albany is created.
2005: $500 million Center for Semiconductor Research; $600 million
International Venture for Nanolithography Program; $300 million Applied
Materials Research Center are planned.
• 2006: $435 million Institute for Nanoelectronics Discovery and Exploration Program planned.
• 2007: International SEMATECH agrees to move its headquarters at CNSE.
• 2008: IBM and New York State announce $1.6 billion investment in packaging center at CNSE.
• 2009: $150 million NanoFab East Building opens.
• 2010: $10 million initiative to merge Infotonics Technology Center in Canandaigua with CNSE
2011: Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces $4.8 billion investment by
international technology group led by Intel Corp. and IBM Corp., with
state assistance, to develop next-generation computer chip technology.
Construction begins on NanoFab Xtension, a $365 million,
280,000-square-foot expansion of CNSE's Albany NanoTech Complex.
-- 2012: In May, President Barack Obama visits CNSE. "I want what's happening in Albany to happen across the country," he says.
Source: College of Nanoscale Science & Engineering at the University at Albany