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$1 million gift from Kionix to support graduate education

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John Carberry

A $1 million gift from Kionix Inc., an Ithaca-based company founded to commercialize technology developed at Cornell, has established the Kionix Graduate Fellowship in Engineering.

The gift to the College of Engineering was directed by Kionix co-founders Greg Galvin, M.S. '82, Ph.D. '84, MBA '93, and Tim Davis, Ph.D. '93. It will create an endowment to support a graduate student whose interests lie ideally at the intersection of materials science and electrical engineering, which were the respective Cornell Ph.D. fields of Galvin and Davis. That is also the technology world that Kionix lives in, said Galvin, Kionix's president and CEO.

"It's part of our overall commitment to technical education," said Galvin, an active Cornell alumnus and trustee whose company supports many local educational initiatives including the Ithaca Sciencenter and the Ithaca High School robotics team. In giving the gift, Galvin and chief technical officer Davis also recognized Cornell's need for increased graduate student support -- a particular area of focus for the College of Engineering.

"The Kionix fellowship will help us to recruit the best and brightest graduate students at the interface between materials science and electrical engineering, where breakthroughs can lead to new technologies and commercial opportunities," said Lance Collins, the Joseph Silbert Dean of the College of Engineering. "We're so grateful for the generosity and foresight of Kionix co-founders Greg Galvin and Tim Davis to make this gift and help us continue to recruit the best students to Cornell."

Galvin and Davis founded Kionix in 1993 to commercialize a microelectromechanical (MEMS) fabrication technology called deep-silicon plasma micromachining that was pioneered at Cornell. The success of the company as a startup venture was dependent not only on the technology, Davis noted, but on the people who were experts in it.

"After we started the company, most of our key engineering hires were Cornell Ph.D.s fresh out of their graduate studies, and they still remain in most of the top engineering positions in the company," Davis said. "This connection to Cornell allowed us to advance technology and develop a viable business. Giving a gift to the College of Engineering in the disciplines that we studied was a recognition of the influence of Cornell in forming and developing Kionix."

Today, Kionix is considered one of Cornell's finest examples of a successful spinoff company that has created major economic benefits throughout the region. It employs close to 220 people and is a global leader in the design and fabrication of high-performance, silicon-micromachined inertial motion sensors. Kionix's accelerometers and gyroscopes are critical building blocks in many electronic systems today, including mobile handsets and tablets, motion-based game controllers and personal navigation systems.

In 2000, Kionix was acquired by Calient Networks of San Jose, Calif., and renamed Calient Optical Components. Just prior, a new company was spun out to the initial Kionix shareholders to pursue sensor, microfluidics and data storage markets, and this company took back the Kionix name post-acquisition.

After serving as president and CEO of Calient Optical Components from 2000 to 2002, Galvin returned full time to Kionix as president and CEO. In 2009, Kionix was acquired by the Japanese company Rohm Co. Ltd. The company continues to operate as Kionix with its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Ithaca.


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