Dennis Kekas must have blood that runs red and blue. A longtime IBM executive who joined N.C. State as an engineering professor and became an driving force behind the growth of the high-tech Centennial Campus, Kekas is doubly proud of Big Blue’s decision to open anew collaboration office at NCSU.

“I am proud as a former IBMer and most appreciative of their confidence in NC State,” he says.

(Well, there may be some orange in that blood, too. He’s a Clemson graduate.)

IBm and NCSU announced the new center this week with IBM noting it is providing some $30 million in grants, equipment, services and other support.

Given your tenure at IBM, you must be proud of this development, The Skinny asked.

“I am certainly pleased at IBM’s forward-thinking approach on new models of collaboration and making this important investment in higher education involvement to address business needs,” Kekas replied. “We all benefit.

I am proud as a former IBMer and most appreciative of their confidence in NC State.”

Kekas joined NCSU after leaving IBM where his last post was as Division Director of Technical Strategy for IBM’s Networking Division.

He’s also an inventor (earning several patents) and entrepreneur, helping launch several network related startups. His primary focus now is Executive Director of the Institute for Next Generation IT Systems (ITng).

IBM has many connections with NCSU, citing the university as a key source for hiring talent. The new lab, Big Blue notes, will help in its recruiting.

And there are previous personal IBM-Centennial Campus links. Dick Daugherty helped jumpstart Centennial Campus, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, after he left IBM as senior executive in North Carolina.

A key point of emphasis recently between IBM and NCSU has been NCSU’s virtual computing lab platform, which Kekas noted has been “used extensively by NC State over many years.”

Kekas sees the new IBM effort as having a big impact on NCSU in multiple ways.

Here’s a Q&A with kekas:

  • What could the impact of the Collaboration Center be for Centennial Campus/NCSU? More partnerships and joint research? Possible IBM interest in NCSU commercialization efforts?

We expect deeper collaborations between IBM and NC State that will increase the numbers of students and faculty involved.

More specifically, we anticipate more holistic systems-level solutions to societal challenges.

For example, advanced/smart connected transportation systems of the future will need to not only address the physical movement of people and goods, but also the need to address issues of cyber security, clean energy, sustainability, safety (as vehicles become autonomous) user experience, and more.

This translates to more diverse multi-disciplined approaches that require close interactive engagement by many persons.

Having an IBM center on campus where IBMers and NCSU researchers engage daily will facilitate these solutions.

  • How is NCSU going to make use of tools/services, etc. gifted to NCSU as part of the center?

NCSU has a long history of using IBM tools and computing platforms to facilitate learning and research. Many of these are contained in the NC State Institute for Next Generation IT Systems (called ITng) located on Centennial Campus.

“IBM has been a longtime supporter of the College of Engineering Institute. Included are many software and hardware platforms from IBM.

  • What do you see as the top benefits for NCSU students stemming from the Center? Could it lead to more of them being hired at IBM?

We fully expect this to be a real plus for IBM hiring plans.

It works both ways in that both student prospects get to know IBM and vice versa.

  • How does the IBM Center fit into the strategic plan for continuing to grow Centennial Campus?

This new center is strategically aligned with the Centennial Campus mission of triple helix engagement where academia, industry and government work together for common causes to ultimately benefit society.

More specific, it is another example of Centennial as a proving ground or living lab for new breakthrough technologies and research endeavors.

  • Whose idea was it to open the Center – NCSU’s or IBM’s? Or was there a meeting of the minds?

It was a meeting of the minds a couple of years ago when we had initial discussions on how to work more closely together in the future. The IBM Education Collaboration Center evolved from that dialog.


Meet Dennis Kekas

Director, Institute for Next Generation IT Systems (ITNG)

Biography:

Dennis H. Kekas, PE is the Executive Director of the Institute for Next Generation IT Systems (ITng). Prior to his current position, Mr. Kekas was Division Director of Technical Strategy for IBM’s Networking Division. He held numerous other executive positions within IBM with extensive product development and financial P&L successes in networking, point-of-sale, and financial transaction systems.

Mr. Kekas has been exceptionally successful in developing and introducing innovative award winning products into the marketplace using innovation as a major competitive strategy. His results oriented entrepreneurial approach fosters innovation, teamwork, and high morale in start-up and turn-around situations. He frequently speaks on topics such as “Break Through Innovation in the Digital Age,” “Stimulating Creativity,” “Reinventing High Tech,” and “Inventing the Future”.

Mr. Kekas holds a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from Clemson University with graduate work at Syracuse and NC State Universities. He attended IBM Corporate Management School and the UCLA Modern Engineering program. A Professional Engineer in New York and North Carolina, Mr. Kekas holds eight worldwide patents and received numerous IBM awards for outstanding inventions, technical achievements, and management excellence.

In 1994 and 1995 he was President of the Clemson University Alumni Association and served on the Clemson Foundation as a director. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Award from Clemson in 1999.

Other activities include serving as Board Chairman for a start-up as well as an advisor to new start-ups such as LightSpin Technologies, Occulan, Togabi, Porivo and Pearl Street Investors Group. He also serves on the Industrial Advisory Board Member for the Clemson University Research Foundation.

Previously he was an advisor to the US Army Focused Research Initiative on wireless, IBM representative to the Research Triangle Directors Club, Industrial Advisory Board for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory/University of Tennessee joint program on VLSI, board member of Artspace, past chapter president of Optimist International and President of the Holy Trinity Parish Council of Raleigh, NC.

Mr. Kekas and his wife Joyce reside in Raleigh, NC.

Source: NCSU