The last time Murray Pasternack set foot on the Farmingdale State College campus was June 1960. It was graduation day, and it was raining.
More than 60 years later, the California transplant who left New York in 1965 found himself back on somewhat familiar ground. Honored at the FSC gala for his leadership in technology and business in November 2021, Pasternack was taken aback by all that had changed—not the least of which was the College's name. “It was New York State School of Agriculture on Long Island back then,” he notes.
But one thing hadn’t changed, much to Pasternack’s dismay. “They still had the same radio frequency equipment in the engineering labs from when I was a student in the 1950s! It was clear they needed some help.”
train the next generation in this technology.
An Unprecedented Act of Generosity
The seed of an idea was planted during that trip.
“As a great engineer and a philanthropist, Murray wanted to understand the problems and challenges so that he could determine how to fix them,” says Matthew Colson, Vice President of Development and Communications.
The result of that tour was a gift of unprecedented generosity. In March 2022, Pasternack became the largest single donor in the school’s history with a gift of $1.4M to endow the Murray Pasternack '60 Lab for Radio Frequency and Microwave Technology. The gift will help the school upgrade the lab, transform its radio frequency equipment, and expand course offerings to make the department a leader in educating radio frequency engineers.
“It is important to me that we build a lab where they can train the next generation in this technology,” Pasternack says. “The need for wireless is growing at a time when the number of engineers is decreasing. I aim to reverse the trend.”
Despite a storied career and degrees in physics and law, Pasternack delights in giving back to what he calls the last school he went to during the day.
“I went to night school to get my other degrees, and I don’t have many fond memories of that time. I was in class, and I was commuting. It was a lot,” he recalls. “But Farmingdale left a mark.”
A self-described “C” student, Pasternack worked his way through college (which is why, he insists, his grades suffered—he was too busy working to study). But he has vivid memories of his electrical engineering classes with Professor E. Norman Lurch, whose influence helped propel Pasternack to success.
Among his post-FSC design achievements were the monopulse radar receiver for the Gemini space program, used in 1965 to accomplish the very first rendezvous in orbit, and a transceiver used by downed US Navy pilots to communicate with rescuers during the Vietnam War.
Additionally, he founded Pasternack Enterprises, a world-class supplier of radio frequency and microwave components.
Now in the process of retiring at age 81, Pasternack is focusing on giving back to the places that have left strong impressions on him. In addition to his donation, Pasternack has FSC students working at one of the companies he has invested in. He wanted to build something that would benefit them today as they train in the lab and prepare them for tomorrow as they enter the workforce. “This is a good arrangement for everyone. Farmingdale educates them in my lab, then we can hire them on after graduation.”