Gift from Narinder Kapany establishes endowed chair in entrepreneurship

narinder kapany
Narinder Kapany received the UCSC Foundation's Fiat Lux Award in 2008. (Photo by r. r. jones)

Narinder Singh Kapany, a pioneering fiber-optics researcher and entrepreneur, has made a gift of $500,000 to the University of California, Santa Cruz, to establish an endowed chair in entrepreneurship. The Narinder Kapany Professorship in Entrepreneurship is based initially at UCSC's Baskin School of Engineering in support of the school's leadership in the establishment of a comprehensive entrepreneurship program for the campus.

"We in engineering are grateful to Dr. Kapany and his family for their generous support of entrepreneurship instruction, in which Dr. Kapany himself was an early pioneer," said Art Ramirez, dean of the Jack Baskin School of Engineering.

This is the second endowed chair funded by Kapany, who was a Regents Professor at UC Santa Cruz from 1977 to 1983 and currently serves as a UC Santa Cruz Foundation Trustee. In 1999, he endowed the Narinder Singh Kapany Chair in Optoelectronics at the Baskin School of Engineering. A research scientist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, Kapany is widely acknowledged as the father of fiber optics.

Brent Haddad, associate dean of engineering for technology management at UCSC, said Kapany's gift provides crucial support for the campus's growing entrepreneurship programs. "The timing of this is really good because we are building our entrepreneurship programs now. We already have a growing curriculum for teaching students how to be entrepreneurs, and there will be a lot of momentum when the new chair is hired," Haddad said.

UCSC offers courses in business development and business planning, as well as seminars and other opportunities for students to meet with venture capitalists, business managers, and experienced entrepreneurs. "They learn how to turn good ideas into viable business plans," Haddad said.

The holder of the endowed chair will provide ongoing leadership for programmatic and curricular initiatives to promote entrepreneurship at UCSC. "It's an exciting position for someone who has bridged the worlds of academia and entrepreneurship, because they will have the resources of the chair and the academic infrastructure to start building their own research program and their own engagement with the community," Haddad said.

Kapany himself has a longstanding interest in promoting entrepreneurship among university faculty and students. As a faculty member at UCSC, he directed the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurial Development funded by the National Science Foundation. "A lot of his ideas from the 1970s are still path-breaking and are helping us think about what we want to do today, so he is providing both intellectual guidance and financial support for our entrepreneurship programs," Haddad said. 

Kapany's research and inventions have encompassed fiber-optics communications, lasers, biomedical instrumentation, solar energy, and pollution monitoring. He holds more than 100 patents, was a member of the National Inventors Council, and has received many awards and honors. He was named one of seven "Unsung Heroes" by Fortune magazine in its 1999 "Businessmen of the Century" issue. In 2008, Kapany was honored with the UC Santa Cruz Foundation's Fiat Lux Award in recognition of his outstanding achievement, dedication, and service in support of the university's programs and goals.