Northeastern grad gives $12 million to build homeland security research institute

A $12 million gift from George J. Kostas, E'43, H'07, will lead to a new homeland security research institute at Northeastern.

September 9, 2010

Northeastern University has received a $12 million gift from one of its alumni, George J. Kostas, E’43, H’07, to build a secure, state-of-the-art homeland security research facility on the university’s Burlington campus. The gift is the largest for a capital project in Northeastern’s history.

The new George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security, a multi-story building, will be designed in accordance with Department of Defense standards and will give Northeastern the capacity and clearances to conduct secure research in a restricted environment. Within the building, sensitive, interdisciplinary research will take place in areas critical to national security, including cryptography, data security, information assurance, detection of explosives, and energy harvesting. 

“This gift expresses our gratitude to my alma mater and to those who crafted our democratic form of government,” said Kostas, who chose the Burlington site as the location for the new facility. “It is our desire to assist in preserving our constitution for the benefit of future generations from terrorists who have demonstrated their increasing capability to destroy our democratic form of government."

Northeastern has a strong portfolio of research efforts built around security. In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security selected Northeastern as one of 11 universities nationwide for a DHS Center in Excellence. The $10 million grant established the Center for Awareness and Localization of Explosive-Related Threats (ALERT) at Northeastern. Northeastern’s Marine Research Center in Nahant is working on robotic technology to detect underwater mines.

“A pioneer at the frontiers of science and engineering, Dr. Kostas has always invested in fields of importance and opportunity,” said President Joseph E. Aoun. “Recognizing the enormous promise of nanotechnology, several years ago he helped Northeastern become a leader in this domain. A passionate patriot, today he is strengthening our leadership in national security research. The University, and indeed the nation, are grateful for his entrepreneurial spirit and his leadership.”

The research conducted by the new Kostas Institute will be part of a federally-funded research portfolio of Northeastern’s College of Engineering. The College of Engineering and the College of Computer and Information Science also have programs in cyber infrastructure protection and in the wireless and wired networks and algorithms that form the backbone of robust command and control systems.

“Dr. Kostas is a great patriot who cares deeply about the security of his country,” said David Luzzi, dean of Northeastern University’s College of Engineering. “His generous gift, which speaks to his confidence in Northeastern’s College of Engineering, will enable our engineers to broaden and deepen their contributions to national and homeland security beyond the research funded in our national engineering centers.”

Over the past four years, Northeastern has doubled the amount of federal funding for its research programs, which focus on three national imperatives; health, security and sustainability. The new facility will be an important asset to existing programs at Northeastern, and it is also expected to bolster the university’s capacity to secure new federal investments and corporate partnerships in the future. 

“Northeastern’s research has traditionally supported our military establishment, the guardian of our form of democracy,” added Kostas. “We hope this facility will inspire other universities to emulate Northeastern because we will need the brain power of all citizens to deal with terrorism with minimum impact on our freedoms.”

Kostas, the son of Greek immigrants, graduated from Northeastern University with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1943. He is a pioneer in synthetic rubber manufacturing and founded Techno-Economic Services Co. in 1972. Kostas’s longstanding relationship with Northeastern has led to generous support in the past, including a $2 million gift to found and establish the George J. Kostas Nanoscale Technology and Manufacturing Research Center. His philanthropy was critical in elevating Northeastern’s reputation as an early leader in the fast-growing field of nanoscale manufacturing, and the center is the university’s focal point for all nanotechnology and nanomanufacturing activities.

Kostas was also instrumental in facilitating the Northeastern University/Greece Nanotechnology Initiative, which partnered Northeastern with Greek universities and research centers. He received the Outstanding Alumnus Award in 2003 and an Honorary Doctor of Science degree in 2007. 

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