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SUNY Poly to use $3.5M Cree donation to back STEM education

By Eric Reinhardt


Will fund scholarships, two endowed faculty chairs    

Construction site work underway at the Cree Mohawk Valley Fab site in Marcy. (PHOTO CREDIT: CREE, INC.)

MARCY — Cree, Inc. (NASDAQ: CREE) has donated $3.5 million to SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) for a scholarship program and two endowed faculty chairs.

The effort seeks to “help expand the local economy and develop a pipeline of high-tech professionals,” SUNY Poly said in announcing the donation in a June 29 news release. 

Durham, North Carolina–based Cree is building the “world’s largest” silicon-carbide fabrication facility in Marcy — named the Mohawk Valley Fab — and has committed to creating more than 600 new jobs within eight years, as well as providing internships for SUNY students as part of its presence.

The Cree donation includes a $2 million scholarship program over 10 years and the creation of two endowed faculty chairs through a $1.5 million fund over five years, beginning in August 2020. The scholarship support will “help ensure students who come from historically underserved or marginalized communities, as well as those with significant financial need, have greater access to the educational opportunities that will equip them to excel as part of tomorrow’s high-tech workforce,” SUNY Poly said. 

The initiative will lead to the establishment of the “Cree/Wolfspeed Scholarship” program and the Dr. John Edmond and Dr. John Palmour SUNY Polytechnic Institute endowed faculty chairs for the “continued expansion” of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) opportunities for students at SUNY Poly. 

Reason for donation

The program is designed to educate the “next-generation, high-tech workforce by increasing student opportunities and graduation rates, as well as by providing access to funds to assist students in advancing their education,” per the release.

When asked if the donation will benefit both the Marcy and Albany campuses, or if it is specifically targeting the Marcy campus, Rex Felton, Cree’s VP of operations, replies, “The scholarships are available to all SUNY Poly students and enrich the educational opportunities for both current and future students.”

Cree specializes in silicon carbide technology. It is a maker of Wolfspeed-branded power and radio frequency (RF) semiconductors and lighting class LEDs (light-emitting diodes). The company says it wants to help the Mohawk Valley region to develop the next generation of high-tech workers.

“Cree made this donation as part of its ongoing, long-term commitment to the Mohawk Valley to help expand the local economy and develop a pipeline of high-tech professionals,” says Felton. 

The company also donated $25,000 to the SUNY Poly Foundation last November to invest in and expand SUNY Poly’s STEM programs.

The donations are common for Cree in areas where it operates.

“One of the core beliefs at Cree is that every individual should have the opportunity to excel, and equitable access to education is at the foundation of that belief. As such, Cree has historically made investments in the local educational markets where it operates, which includes New York and in North Carolina, where its headquarters is located,” the company tells CNYBJ.

SUNY Poly says the donations will boost its STEM capabilities and opportunities.

“SUNY Poly’s robust partnership with Cree further enriches the educational opportunities for current and future students,” Grace Wang, interim president of SUNY Poly said. “With this incredible commitment to SUNY Poly and the Mohawk Valley, Cree recognizes the scholarly excellence of SUNY Poly faculty and provides our students with invaluable resources to become tomorrow’s leaders in [STEM] fields.”

Named in honor of two of Cree’s co-founders, Edmond and Palmour, the endowed faculty chairs — the highest academic award that a university can bestow on a faculty member — will be used to advance state-of-the-art technology through continued scholarly research and projects in the fields of nanotechnology and engineering. The endowed faculty chairs will allow students to learn from and work closely with the “pioneering” scholars in the silicon-carbide space. Edmond and Palmour were part of the team that founded Cree in 1987 after conducting promising silicon-carbide research at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. 

“The new Cree/Wolfspeed Scholarship and endowment at SUNY Poly demonstrates Cree’s dedication to the region by establishing a robust pipeline for the next generation of high-quality high tech jobs in the Mohawk Valley,” Eric Gertler, acting commissioner and president & CEO-designate of Empire State Development, said. 

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