A Generous New Fellowship Program Feeds the High-Tech Talent Pipeline from Brooklyn to Farmingdale

Kevin McSweeney, President of Telephonics

“The first time I heard about the School of Engineering, which was known as Poly back then, was from my father, who had earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering there,” Kevin McSweeney, recalls. “He often reflected on his positive experience at Poly, both academically and personally, and that stuck with me.”

Kevin — now the head of Telephonics Corporation, an advanced-technology company that serves the aerospace, defense, and commercial sectors — ended up earning a bachelor’s degree in Engineering and Management from Clarkson University, and upon graduation he accepted a job at Grumman Aerospace, then one of the largest employers on Long Island. There he heard two engineering co-workers discussing their own years at Poly, which at the time maintained a campus in Farmingdale. Remembering his father’s fondness for the school and inspired by the enthusiasm of his colleagues, he began studying for a graduate degree in computer science at night.   

Kevin’s career later took him to Lockheed Martin in Syracuse, where he took on increasing responsibility, serving as Vice President of the company’s Maritime Safety, Security and Surveillance (MS3) business and Vice President of Technical Operations, among other posts. In 2004 he had the opportunity to interview for a leadership position at Telephonics. Founded in 1933 to manufacture audio headsets, Telephonics had burgeoned into a major participant in the areas of radar systems, custom Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), wireless communications, and other sophisticated technologies.

In a stroke of seeming kismet, the company was headquartered right in Farmingdale. Not only would Telephonics be a nurturing environment in which to grow his career, it would represent a homecoming of sorts, since his extended family still lived on Long Island. In 2004, Kevin accepted the position of President of the Radar Systems Division and started his career at Telephonics. Now, when Kevin — who ascended to the company’s top leadership post in 2016 — drives to work, he passes by the site of the old Poly campus.

The connection goes far deeper than mere geography, though.

In early 2017 Telephonics entered into an agreement with the NYU Tandon School of Engineering to establish a Graduate Fellowship Program for students with exceptional promise in technology areas relevant to the company, such as radar systems, signal processing, and wireless. Four Fellows per year will receive full scholarships and rewarding internship opportunities.

Any prospective graduate student is encouraged to apply — and that includes Telephonics’ own employees. “We consider them our most valuable resources,” Kevin explains, “and as long as they meet Tandon’s rigorous admissions requirements, we’re happy to see them further their educations.” Extending that generosity even further, any Telephonics employees accepted into the program will be allowed to continue their employment, but with a reduced work commitment, allowing additional time for studies — somewhat different from the days when Kevin himself worked all day and attended classes in the evening.

“We see this as a first step in what we hope will be a mutually beneficial collaboration and a deepening relationship,” Kevin says. “It’s not every technology company that has a premiere school of engineering right in its own backyard, so we’re very lucky in that respect.”