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The Campaign for Fairleigh Dickinson University is nearing its $50-million goal.
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Ramatu Musa, BA’09 (T), interned at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. FDU Magazine shares her summer travelogue.
Pollster John Zogby has declared America’s youth to be the first global generation. Are they? FDU’s experts comment.
Clean Power Cells
Glass Ceiling to Crown Heights
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Gerald DeCuollo, BS’77 (M)
HAT’S THE KEY INGREDIENT for success as a high-tech entrepreneur?
Pose that question to Gerald DeCuollo, BS’77 (M), and the president and CEO of TreadStone Technologies won’t need more than two seconds to answer. “Perseverance — it’s the only word in my vocabulary!” booms the former FDU chemistry major while describing how he and a partner launched their hydrogen-fuel-cell-technology company three years ago in Princeton, N.J.
“If you’re going to build a new enterprise from scratch,” adds the optimistic DeCuollo, “you have to be willing to hang in there during the first year or two.
“Perseverance . . . and I guess I’d add one more word: passion. If you’re truly passionate about what you’re doing, you should be well-equipped to succeed.”
For DeCuollo, who co-founded TreadStone in March of 2006 after quitting an executive post at electronics- industry giant Sarnoff Corp., launching a brand-new manufacturing company has been a thrill-a-minute exercise full of exhilarating highs and anxiety-provoking lows. In spite of the inevitable turbulence, however, DeCuollo remains “absolutely confident” that his uniquely high-powered and low-cost fuel-cell components for automobile engines and other products will soon propel his company to the forefront of this promising industry.
Why is he so certain? It’s simple, says DeCuollo. During more than 30 years working in every phase of the chemical and energy industries, he learned a great deal about hydrogen fuel cells and their enormous potential as energy sources. Armed with this knowledge, DeCuollo three years ago teamed up with pioneering Sarnoff engineer Conghua Wang — a nationally recognized expert on fuel cells — to create a “spin-off” company that could focus exclusively on an entirely new approach to building the hydrogen-conversion “stacks” that are the key component in this exciting technology.
If the two entrepreneurs have their way, they’ll soon be supplying their new fuel-cell stacks to the auto industry, which has already begun to roll out vehicles that use hydrogen technology. According to industry experts, hydrogen fuel cells have the potential to greatly increase efficiency while eliminating greenhouse gas pollutants entirely, since they produce nothing more harmful than water as waste products.
The DeCuollo-Wang duo got a major boost when they won a $500,000 development grant from the Edison Innovation R&D Fund and the New Jersey Commission on Science and Technology and then landed their first full-time commercial client. Says the exuberant DeCuollo, “We’re not just an R&D firm anymore; we’re now an active commercial manufacturer.
“We also know we’re two to three years ahead of the competition, and we’re already working on systems for taking our technology to market.”
The son of a construction company operator in Scotch Plains, N.J., DeCuollo paid his own way through his studies at FDU’s College at Florham by working full-time and eventually earning his employer’s financial support. “I guess I’ve always been pretty independent-minded,” he says, “and I guess that’s why I decided I wanted to pay for college myself.
“Paying my own way was a great life-lesson. But I also benefited by studying chemistry with three terrific FDU professors who really challenged their students — Frank Lang [then-associate professor of chemistry and now professor emeritus], Ronald Strange [an assistant professor and then-chair of the chemistry department who now serves FDU as a full professor] and Ray Baylouny [then-associate professor and now professor emeritus of chemistry]. Those three guys loved teaching, and their dedication to chemistry changed my life.”
After graduating in 1977, DeCuollo worked as a lab chemist, a manufacturing technician, a marketer and a management executive for several U.S. industrial corporations. Then, after several years at Sarnoff, he threw job security to the winds in 2006 to launch his startup.
Married to FDU graduate and clinical psychologist Phyllis Sergeant, BA’76 (M), DeCuollo is the proud parent of 20-year-old Alecia (a sophomore at Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pa.) and an enthusiastic “family man” who says he enjoys watching his daughter play college water polo.
“Passion and perseverance,” he will come back to when asked what it’s like to build a young company while in a deep recession. “Sure, I’m concerned about the economy, but I’m not going to let it stop me. We’re going to persevere, and we’re going to make it!”
FDU Magazine is published twice yearly by the Office of Communications and Marketing, Fairleigh Dickinson University, 1000 River Road, H-DH3-14, Teaneck, N.J. 07666.
FDU Magazine welcomes your comments. E-mail Rebecca Maxon, editor, at email@example.com or make a blog entry at MyFDU.net.
J. Michael Adams, President; Richard Reiss, Senior Vice President for University Advancement; Angelo Carfagna, Assistant Vice President for University Advancement and Communication; Okang McBride, Director of Alumni Relations; Carol Kuzen Black, Director of Publications/Senior Editor; Rebecca Maxon, Editor and Web Designer; Nina Ovryn, Art Director
Contributors: Mary Ann Bautista, Roger Koppl, Andrew McKay, Ramatu Musa, Tom Nugent, Melissa Payton
Photo/Illustration Credits: John S. Dykes, Don Hamerman, istockphotos.com, Shelley Kusnetz, Weaver Lilley, Katharine Marks, Arthur Petrosemolo, Nick Romanenko, Danny Schwartz, Adena Stevens
For a print copy of FDU Magazine, featuring these and other stories, contact Rebecca Maxon, editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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