Family Visits: 41 Cooper Square

June 01, 2009

From left: Samantha Karpinski, Sara Nerken, Simon Ben-Avi, Robert Karpinski From left: Stanley Lapidus with his spouse Ruth, daughter-in-law Michelle, sons David and Joel, and daughter-in-law Tiffany
From left: Samantha Karpinski, Sara Nerken, Simon Ben-Avi, Robert Karpinski

Daughter of Engineering School Benefactor Visits New Building

On Friday, March 27, together with husband Robert Karpinski and high school student daughter Samantha, Sara Nerken toured 41 Cooper Square, accompanied by Associate Dean of Engineering Simon Ben-Avi. The new academic building will house The Albert Nerken School of Engineering named for Sara’s father, once it moves from the old Engineering Building in Astor Place.

Albert Nerken (ChE’33),who expressed his deep gratitude to The Cooper Union by making an extraordinary gift to name the School of Engineering in the late 1980s, was co-founder in 1945 of Veeco Instruments Inc. (Vacuum Electronic Engineering Corporation), now a leading global provider of metrology and process equipment solutions. But as Sara told us, her father was virtually penniless when he attended the college. In fact, she said, on schooldays, his parents allotted him just 10 cents for round trip subway fare and another nickel for coffee.

All three members of the Nerken-Karpinski family were fascinated with the building—and they were particularly interested in the eighth-floor Green Roof, because it turns out that Albert, besides being an outstanding engineer and amazing entrepreneur, was an amateur horticulturalist, and someone who,way ahead of his time, experimented in his home’s basement and backyard with organic chemical compounds and gardening techniques. It is therefore fitting that the Green Roof adjoins the Alumni Roof Terrace, where Albert will be recognized on a paver.

Cooper Alumnus and Trustee Stanley Lapidus Tours 41 Cooper Square

Stanley Lapidus (EE’70) with his wife Ruth, his two sons and daughters-in law, visited from New Hampshire to see 41 Cooper Square on Friday, April 17. Stan, an alumnus and member of The Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees since 2002, was an early proponent of, and one of the lead donors to, the new academic building.

Stan’s extraordinary generosity is being recognized in the Ruth and Stanley N. Lapidus EE’70 Laboratory, a state-of-the-art lab on the east side of the seventh floor, as well as on the Alumni Roof Terrace.Two large faculty offices on the northwest corners of the third and fourth floors will be named in honor of his sons David and Joel.

Stan is founder and chairman of Helicos BioSciences Corporation, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based life science company focused on innovative genetic analysis technologies for research, drug discovery and diagnostic markets. Earlier in his career at Cytyc Corporation, a company he also founded, he invented the breakthrough Thin Prep Pap Test, the most widely used procedure in the United States today to detect cervical cancer.

Stan notes, “Four decades ago, when I attended The Cooper Union, the study of life sciences was in its infancy and not part of the engineering curriculum. Nonetheless, the rigor and flexibility of my education enabled me to move in that direction and have the good fortune to be able to contribute to healthcare and cancer prevention.”

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.