Jousting for Credit

On the occasion of President Obama’s trip to Albany to visit CNSE there was a great deal of dissonance about who deserved credit.

Jimmy Vielkind of the Times Union tweeted the day before that he was looking forward to some good old fashioned “credit jousting”. But really, anyone, with the capacity for a clear-eyed honest assessment knows where the credit belongs; it belongs with a whole lot of people.

Cuomo senior, hired the center director, an ambitious junior researcher at the time and its rumored he may have even taught him micro-electronics.

We know that Speaker Silver provided funding to support the Focus Center at a critical juncture in the development of capacity at Albany. Although what you probably don’t know is that the Focus Center was actually once a joint effort with RPI and for a period of time it was totally unclear who would emerge as the lead. (Most bets were on RPI)

We know for certain that Governor Pataki, put in the lions share of funds, energy and prestige – that’s not a question it is a simple fact…backed up by six State of the State addresses, countless releases, a simple Google search and a Noyce SIA Man of the Year Award.

And what you may know is that Senator Bruno largely supported the effort until he had a clash of personalities with the self-ordained “geek” that runs the center.

Finally, we know that our current Governor wisely invested his own truckload of cash into the cutting edge 450mm project that is underway, keeping the momentum moving forward.

But you may not know all the other people who actually made the Center a presidential destination.

There were so many that were essential to this program along the way; from John Kelly at IBM without whom there is no Center, to Jeff Lovell who cajoled, pestered and ground down his opponents to deliver deals for a Governor to Dean Fuelihan who did much the same with great success for the Speaker.

But today we remember the late Lou Tomson.

Lou was the consummate inside player; simply put he knew how to get things done. From the halls of the Capitol to the wreckage of Lower Manhattan, from the Thruway Authority to Plug Power, Lou was sought out and drafted into service whenever there was a tough problem. Lou was renowned for his intellect, his drive, his disarming manner and his unparalleled knowledge of how to manage the levers of government.

Lou sort of had a Where’s Waldo quality to his career, always showing up in big spots, at key times to quietly and effectively manage crisis and opportunity.

So it was no surprise to learn that Lou was founding Chairman of the Albany Nanotech Board.  In that role he acted as councilor, advocate, mediator and nursemaid to the Center of Excellence as it emerged from its infancy. At a time when the future of the Center was still in question, Lou was critical in marshaling the resources and the political will to move the Center forward to the transformational level it has achieved. 

Every bit the equal of Lou’s intellect and drive was a dry, wicked-ironic sense of humor that always cut to the heart of the absurdity of moment. For anyone who has worked in government you will know that a sense of humor is essential to bear the self important, chest beating geniuses that so often find their way up the ladder – let alone get things done.

With that in mind, I’m sure Lou would find it genuinely absurd that on May 8th as the President of the Unites States stood at the podium at CNSE, and said “This school and this community represent the future of our economy. I want what’s happening in Albany to happen all across the country”… as Speaker Silver dropped a last minute release battling for credit, as the Geek lost track of the gubernatorial line of succession that built the edifice to him and as politicians of all stripes and backgrounds jousted for credit…Lou Tomson passed quietly into a Swedish afterlife finally losing his courageous battle with cancer.

I think Bob Bellafiore said it best, “Lou spent a life in and around government and somehow managed to remain well adjusted. No matter how much time you’d get to spend with him, it would never be enough. A true giant.”

Rest in Peace Lou Tomson.

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