No. 487: A new academic president, an old telephonic precedent, and innovation saves the world, once again

Madame president: Maurie McInnis will become Stony Brook University's sixth president, and the second woman to fill the office, on July 1.


Breathe easy: Another workweek under COVID-19’s cruel lash comes to an indistinct end, dear readers, as Friday arrives and another homebound weekend begins.

Fresh air: The pandemic has observably reduced human pollution — in some cases, to historically low levels.

Yes, the kids are going cave-happy and the only thing that seems to change day-to-day is the primetime TV lineup, but consider this silver lining: With fewer planes, trains and automobiles buzzing about, air quality is rapidly improving around the world.

Front-row seat: It’s March 27 out there, which is of course World Theatre Day, an informational celebration spotlighting the economic potential of stage productions.

Not in 2020, so much, but otherwise.

Over a barrel: To good health.

We’ll drink to that: It’s also International Whisky Day, which for the initiated requires no further introduction. Everyone else click here.

Or here, if you want to get serious.

Youth, not served: But Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon still provided a fountain of information on March 27, 1513, when he first spotted – and named – the Florida mainland.

Non sibi sed patriae: Happy birthday (sorta) to the U.S. Navy – Congress passed the Naval Act on this date in 1794, creating the Continental Navy, the first permanent American sea force and direct predecessor of the modern fleet.

Social distancing: The first long-distance phone call was made on March 27, 1884, when branch managers at American Bell Telephone’s Boston office reached out and touched their New York City counterparts.

It’s a breeze: Inventors Jim Drake and Hoyle Schweitzer filed a patent application on this date in 1968 for their “Wind-Propelled Apparatus” – eventually, the first U.S. sailboard patent.

Other U.S. patents connected to March 27 include one issued in 1849 for inventor Joseph Couch’s “improved machinery for drilling rocks,” the first steam-powered rock drill.

Hard sell: And it was this date in 1998 when Sildenafil citrate – known best as Pfizer stalwart Viagra – was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

A Telstar is born: American mechanical engineer and scientist John Pierce (1910-2002) – the father of satellite communications, who had strong ties to Bell Laboratories, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and wrote science fiction stories under the penname J.J. Coupling – would be 110 years old today.

Sassy Sarah: The Divine One, in all her multiple-Grammy glory.

Also born on March 27 were German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen (1845-1923), who discovered the penetrating radiation that became known as X-rays; English mathematician and statistician Karl Pearson (1857-1936), who essentially invented biometrics; English industrialist Sir Henry Royce (1863-1933), cofounder of Rolls-Royce Ltd.; “Happy Birthday to You” songwriter Patty Hill (1868-1946); and jazz great Sarah Vaughan (1924-1990).

He’s a bad m***********: And take a bow, Quentin Tarantino – the bloody-good American screenwriter and film director turns 57 today.

Send well wishes for the pulp-master, the progenitor of humanity’s most-sung song and all the other March 27 innovators to Story tips, calendar suggestions and general socioeconomic howdy-do’s always appreciated, but especially during lockdowns.


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Historical historian: Thank you for your service, Interim President Michael Bernstein, but the SUNY Board of Trustees has unanimously selected Stony Brook University’s sixth non-interim president and official successor of SBU President Samuel Stanley Jr., who departed last summer – renowned cultural historian Maurie McInnis, currently executive vice president and provost of the University of Texas at Austin.

McInnis’ appointment, effective July 1, follows a 10-month search for a successor to Stanley, who left to become the 21st president of Michigan State University. Bernstein, SBU provost since 2016, filled in while a search committee including Long Island Association President Kevin Law, Renaissance Technologies founder James Simon and other regional rainmakers sought a permanent replacement.

They ultimately chose McInnis, a Yale University-educated art historian with a long record of executive leadership, primarily at the University of Virginia, who becomes SBU’s second woman president. “It is now as important as ever to support all our campuses with strong and proven leaders who can quickly navigate challenges … and keep our students on a path to the world-class higher education they expect,” noted SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Merryl Tisch in Thursday’s official announcement. “[McInnis] has demonstrated experience and the characteristics of such a leader.”

Light touch: Solar-power solutions shined in NYSERDA’s Future Grid Challenge.

Powerful ideas: The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has crowned five winning teams through its multimillion-dollar Future Grid Challenge, partially funding the development of clean, renewable energy solutions and their integration into the state’s electric grid.

The challenge pairs private energy enterprises with public utilities – including National Grid, Consolidated Edison and multiple mid- and upstate providers – in partnerships aimed at creating a carbon-free New York grid by 2040. None of the winning teams was Long Island-based, but the victors (including an effort to integrate “aggregated solar data” into Con Ed’s metering infrastructure, and another using “smart inverters” to promote National Grid’s voltage optimization) promise benefits for all New Yorkers, according to NYSERDA President and CEO Alicia Barton.

“The teams selected show how expertise, experience and innovation are coming together to advance forward-thinking solutions that can meet the state’s future energy needs,” Barton said Thursday.



Smarts with heart: A leading Long Island academic institution is helping its most vulnerable community members ride out the pandemic.

Match game: Match Day 2020 took on a game-show flavor as Long Island’s med-school grads revealed their residencies via small-screen celebrations.

Prime directive: Keep up with COVID-19 – Island-style – with Innovation in the Age of Coronavirus, your Innovate LI pandemic primer.



Thinking ahead with Nixon Peabody, building hospitals with the National Guard.



Innovate LI’s inbox overrunneth with inspirational innovations from all North American corners. This week’s brightest out-of-towners:

From Minnesota: St. Paul-based cybersecurity ace KnectIQ, under the command of a retired U.S. Navy admiral, inks a big tech deal with a leading defense firm.

From Maryland: The Columbia-based Universities Space Research Association will head a DARPA-funded NASA collaboration focused on quantum optimization.

From Georgia: Atlanta-based unmanned-aerial-systems consultant Skyfire Consulting eyes aggressive drone development/deployment after critical acquisition.



Craig Handler

+ Craig Handler has been promoted to partner at Riverhead-based Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin & Quatararo. He previously served as an associate.

+ Lorraine Stacknowitz Boss has been hired as a partner at Uniondale-based Forchelli Deegan Terrana. She previously served as an attorney at Garden City-based Brosnan and Hegler.

+ Matthew Meisel has been hired as an associate in the Commercial Litigation and Real Estate Groups at Uniondale-based Rivkin Radler. He previously served as an associate at Belkin Burden Wenig and Goldmanc in Manhattan.

+ Megan Yllanes has been promoted to partner at Woodbury-based Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck. She previously served as an associate.

+ Rashmee Sinha has been hired as an employment practices liability partner at Woodbury-based Kaufman Dolowich & Voluck. She previously served as a partner at Norris McLaughlin in Manhattan.

+ Guibo Xie has been hired as an environmental project engineer at Syosset-based LKB Consulting Engineers. He previously served as an environmental specialist/compliance monitor for Prudent Engineering in East Syracuse.



String theory: You, after the quarantine.

Stay calm: No worries, civilization – as usual, innovation’s got your back.

Keep it clean: Professional email etiquette in a WFH world.

Strum a few bars: Tune up that six string, guitar hero – opportunistic Fender is offering free online lessons.

And doublecheck your IT: They can help with that at Webair, one of the amazing firms that support Innovate LI, where business resiliency and disaster recovery – never more important – are just the tip of the technological iceberg. Check them out.