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February 03, 2017

$3 Million Gift to Support Transfer of CMU Inventions to the Marketplace

Aleksandar and Sofija Kavcics

Professor Aleksandar Kavčić and his wife, Dr. Sofija Kavčić, have donated $3 million to create a new, endowed fund to support inventors at Carnegie Mellon University.

Specifically, the Mary Jo Howard Dively Fund for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation will facilitate the smooth transfer of inventions and other intellectual property developed at Carnegie Mellon into the marketplace.

Aleksandar Kavčić, a signal-processing researcher and an adjunct professor in CMU's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, asked that the fund be named for Mary Jo Dively, CMU's vice president and general counsel, in recognition of her support for faculty and researchers across the university, as well as her protection of the groundbreaking discovery Kavčić and CMU Professor José Moura made in data storage technology, which had an impact across the computer industry in the early 2000s.

Proceeds from the new fund will be used to educate creators at CMU about relevant aspects of intellectual property law and practice, so they can make informed decisions; improve connections with industry in order to speed up the transfer of technology; and assist with the patenting and copyrighting process in cases where the inventors cannot afford to do so through their departments, research centers or grants.

"Alek's work with José showed the power of CMU research to make a significant impact on the world around us," said President Subra Suresh. "We are deeply grateful that he has also chosen to make a profound impact on future researchers with his philanthropy. It means a great deal to have this gift come from within the CMU community."

The fund also will enhance the capacity of CMU's Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation (CTTEC), which is responsible for facilitating and accelerating the movement of research and technology out of the university and into the marketplace, and its ability to evaluate whether a CMU invention is being used properly and potential resolutions if necessary.

Kavčić said that ensuring that support across the university would be invaluable to potential inventors at CMU, many of whom are focused on their research and not on the business implications of their work.

"Sooner or later someone at CMU is going to invent the next great technological breakthrough, and if they're like us, they won't know what to do," he said. "We don't want future inventors to go through the same. We should take care of our inventors, most of whom have two desires: To see their intellectual content used by society and to get proper credit. If we can aid them through these endeavors, that's as much as they are asking, and we are hoping that this fund will do just that."

Prior to joining the University of Hawaii in 2007, Aleksandar Kavčić was an assistant professor of electrical engineering in the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, where he also served as the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of Natural Sciences. While on leave from Harvard, he served as a visiting associate professor at the City University of Hong Kong and as a visiting scholar at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Kavčić received a degree in electrical engineering from Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany, and a doctoral degree in electrical and computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

Sofija Kavčić received a doctoral degree in architecture from University of Hawaii and recently worked at Architects Hawaii, an architectural firm in Honolulu.

Last week, the university announced that Moura, his wife and fellow CMU faculty member Professor Manuela Veloso, and the Kavčićs had jointly donated $16.5 million to the university to support education and research activities in data science and engineering.

The gift created the Kavčić-Moura Endowment Fund, which will support research and education activities in data science and engineering and aims to join technologists and quantitative scientists from the College of Engineering, School of Computer Science and Department of Statistics with domain specialists across the university. The fund will offer fellowships and scholarships to doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students, provide grants to support course development and research in data science and engineering across the university, and include chaired professorships in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. It will further support educational, academic and research work at the university's Data Storage Systems Center (DSSC), a collaborative effort between several departments.

For more than a decade, Dively led the university's efforts to protect a patent for Kavčić and Moura's discovery, working closely with the inventors.

"I'm truly humbled by this honor," Dively said of the fund named for her. "Our success was the result of a collective effort, which was fueled by the determination with which Alek and José put in countless hours in the process, so this is really an honor to all those who played a part. I'm privileged to work closely with so many wonderful people at Carnegie Mellon."

Dively, who joined CMU in 2002 as the university's first general counsel, established the university's first legal team and has managed CMU's legal affairs ever since in Pennsylvania, nationally and throughout the world. She received her J.D. from the Vanderbilt University School of Law and is a member of the American Law Institute, the National Association of College and University Attorneys, and the Association of American Universities' General Counsel Roundtable.

Within the Pittsburgh region, Dively is a current member and past chair of the board of trustees of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and a member of the boards of trustees of the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation, Shady Side Academy, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and Frick Art and Historical Center Inc. She is a past member of the board of trustees and current member of the board of visitors of UPMC Health System. She and her husband, Lane, have triplet sons who are juniors at CMU.